Your family is growing, and a new baby will be home soon. How exciting! The big brother or big sister may be eagerly awaiting the new arrival anticipating all the fun things they’ll be doing together. Playing with dolls, building Lego sets, playing hide and seek could be just a few items on the fun list. Her expectations may soon turn to disappointment when she realizes that those playdates are not meant to be – just yet. Why, all this baby does is cry and eat and sleep.
Where’s the fun in that?
You may see some unpleasant changes in your first born once baby comes home. She may begin acting out, be hostile to her new baby sibling or regress into baby behavior. She sees the baby getting oodles of attention and wants in on the action. Fear not, this is a temporary phase as the adjustment period unfolds.
Preparing Your Older Child for the New Arrival
You’ll want to talk with your first child about becoming the big sister or brother. Generally, it’s best to wait until you’re well into your second or third trimester. As children don’t have a firm grasp on the concept of time, i.e., nine months, you’ll being hearing ‘When is the baby coming?’ for a long time! Tots under 18 months don’t have the developmental capacity to understand, so the approach you take to introducing the subject will depend on your older child’s age.
Buying a baby doll for your child to play with and love is a good way to introduce the idea of a new baby coming into the family. Story books are also a good way to help her get ready to be a big sister. A few titles include I’m a Big Sister or I’m a Big Brother by Joanna Cole, You Were the First by Patricia MacLachlan and Big Brothers are the Best or Big Sisters are the Best by Fran Manushkin. If your first child is over four years old, you might want to attend a sibling class. Check your local community education offerings to learn what’s available.
Teach a Gentle Touch
It will be a little disconcerting hearing and seeing your first-born acting out and displaying unsettling behavior. However, it’s all part of the normal process of transitioning to life with a new baby brother or sister. It’s important to not overreact to the unpleasantries. Instead, continue to encourage kindness and a gentle touch when it comes to this new sibling relationship. Set a few ground rules to ensure safety for all like never putting anything on the baby’s face or not touching or feeding the baby without adult supervision. Your own tender nurturing is the best modeling you can provide and will be the best source of imitation for your older child.
All in the Family
With a new baby on board, big sister may feel like there’s not enough love and attention to go around. She might panic thinking that this little human has just become her replacement and that her needs might not be met. Reassure her that of course, that is not the case. Have a few ‘just Mommy and me’ dates with her. Calm her fears assuring her that even while you’re taking care of the baby, you’re taking care of her, too. Remember to use a calm and caring tone of voice. Sometimes, it’s not what you say but how you say it that makes a lasting impact.
There are most likely a few tasks that big sister can help you with in caring for your newborn. She can pass a diaper to you or get a clean onesie from a shelf. She can gently shake a rattle or sing to her new baby brother. Sharing baby duty and helping Mommy may give her a greater sense of importance, belonging and comfort within the family.
It can be easy to focus all your attention on the tiniest family member. He needs you to do everything for him, after all. Include your older child as often as possible. A few small gifts for her, especially when visitors arrive without one, will work wonders as well.
Siblings are a Gift
One of the greatest joys of being a parent is watching the love and friendship between siblings grow. Amid the occasional squabbles, love and affection will reign and you will cherish the relationship they develop with one another.
This is the start of something beautiful!