Thursday, December 17, 2009

Preparing Your Older Children for a New Sibling

The birth of a new child is an exciting time for any family. It means that there will be a whole new life, with all of its demands, added to the family. It also means great change for the family, which can be difficult for any older children to deal with. What sort of issues are common older sibling responses? How do you deal with them? How can you help your older child be more prepared for the arrival of a new sibling?

While there is no way to completely prepare a child for the arrival of a sibling, there are some things you can do to help the transition. A toddler or preschooler may understand the basics of what to expect, but there is no way to completely prepare them. Jealousy will be inevitable, but you can help to smooth the way.

Many hospitals and birthing centers now offer sibling classes that can help you child adjust to the reality of becoming a big brother or sister. Talking to your child about the impending arrival, involving them in your prenatal visits, and letting them attend the ultrasound are some easy ways to peak their interest, and allow them to adjust to the inevitable. Have them practice holding a baby doll like a real baby. Have them help choose the new baby's name. Allow them to pick out the coming home clothes for the new baby. These things will help ease the way before your new arrival is born.

Some basic tools for you to help your young child adjust after the birth to the presence of a sibling are:

Ease the initial meeting

Arrange for siblings to visit if Mom and baby are in the hospital for a few days. When the new baby comes home, arrange for someone to bring over a birthday cake. Have the baby and your older child exchange presents. Have gifts on hand for the older child when friends and family bring baby gifts.

Don't over react to your child’s misbehavior

Your toddler or preschooler will misbehave to get your attention. Expect it, accept it and ignore it. Giving him or her negative attention just reinforces the idea that bad behavior will get them what they want. This will wear off in time.

Give your toddler/preschooler one on one time

Try to spend some one on one time with the older sibling; a book before bedtime, color together, or make a weekly event of McDonald’s for breakfast on Sunday. Let them know they are still your baby too and special. Encourage fathers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents to spend more time with the older child, too.

Let the older sibling help

Give the big brother or big sister jobs that they can do with pride. Kids love to help and feel "grown up." They can gather items for diaper changes, pick out the days clothes, help fold laundry,Then praise them for their help and cooperation. Be specific when giving praise. "Thank you for folding the diapers. That was a big help to Mommy."


Explain things to your child in simple terms he can understand. "The new baby is so little, she could fall out of a bed. She will use your old crib now."

Even the most perpared child will have some issues with the addition of a new sibling. Some reverting to infant-like behavior is common in young children. They may want to have a bottle or pacifier returned, or take up carrying around that love-worn blanket again. They may be resentful of the time that must be spent with the new baby and demand constant attention from mom or dad. No matter how trying your older childs reactions are to the new baby, remember that it is all completely normal, and will usually fade away in a very short time.

Best of luck to you and your expanding family!

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