Bringing home a new baby should be an exciting time for everyone. If you already have other children, you know how much time and preparation it can take to get things ready for a newborn. But, it’s essential to prepare your older children, as well.
They might be feeling a bit jealous. They might be nervous. Or they might be excited but aren’t sure how to express that.
So, what can you do to prepare siblings for a new baby?
Telling Them as Soon as Possible
Don’t keep the news of a baby from your other children. If you’ve already started telling other people, it’s time to tell your kids. Even if they’re not old enough to fully understand what that means, make sure they know. Explain it to them in the simplest way possible.
It’s also essential that they know what a baby does and what they can expect. Some kids are initially very excited about the idea of a new baby because they think it will be a built-in playmate. You need to explain the needs of a baby and how things might be different for a while as you all adjust to someone “new” in the home.
Books are a great way to help children learn how to process and interact with the world around them. So seek out a few books that talk about pregnancy and welcoming a new baby into the family from a child's perspective. It can help spur questions your older child may have and spark conversation.
Fighting Off Feelings of Jealousy
One of the most common concerns parents face is dealing with a child’s jealousy over a new baby. Keep in mind that every child will react differently. Some kids won’t feel jealous, while others might be worried about how their lives will change.
One of the best things you can do is devote some one-on-one time with your children each day. That should involve both parents individually. Make sure they know they’re still being heard and seen and that you still love them just as much now as you did before the baby was born. Time is precious and flies by - especially with a newborn to care for now. But even 10 minutes a day of dedicated time with your older child can go a long way to helping them still know they are loved and feel secure.
Also, don't be surprised by the ways your older child expresses their jealousy or insecurities (it's really more of an insecurity than jealous in my opinion) as children are not always eloquent with expressing their emotions. It's quite common for children (particularly in the 3-6 year old age range) to express their insecurities with a new sibling by asking to "send them back". My son even asked me if this now means he doesn't get to live with us anymore now that we have a new baby.
It's important to keep everything reframed in a positive perspective. A young child has few points of reference for how to navigate the introduction of a sibling to the family. So answer their questions, reassure them and help them feel secure.
Giving Them Praise and Responsibilities
It’s easy for siblings to feel “left out” when a new baby comes home. One thing you can do to avoid that is to give them jobs. Talk to them about being a big helper, and praise them when they do something to help the baby.
You can give them age-appropriate responsibilities with the baby that can offer them a sense of pride. That might include letting your child help with bottle feedings or bringing you a new outfit for the baby. When your child feels like they have an essential job to do and know they’re doing it well, they will want to keep being involved.
It can also help them to feel closer to their new sibling.
Every child is different in how they might react to a new baby. You know your children better than anyone. So, if you’re worried they might have a hard time with it, start preparing them now. Please don’t leave them in the dark about what they should expect. But, reassure them that your love for them isn’t going to change at all.
If you’re struggling with preparing siblings for a new baby, or your children are having a hard time with the idea, feel free to contact me. I’m here to help. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
To learn more about how counseling can help you on your parenting journey, please click here.
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Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has a private practice in Cranford, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New Jersey via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.