Easing Sibling Adjustment
Many parents who choose to have kids close together worry about their firstborn as the birth of a new baby draws near. For a year or more, your child has been the center of your world and a new baby can be a big shock to his system.
Although he may be excited about the baby in mommy’s tummy now, as the realization starts to set in that he now has to share his parents with the new baby, the excitement may start to wear off. Your oldest may start to deal with very big emotions about the new baby, including jealousy, insecurity, frustration, hostility, and more. Your little one may start acting out and clinging to you.
While sibling adjustment can take time, there are some things you can do to help ease that transition once baby is born.
- Get a doll for the older sibling to take care of while you take care of the baby. You may have heard that children are sponges. They are watching your every move and listening to your every word. By watching how you interact with the baby, he can practice feeding and changing and being kind and gentle to his baby.
- Enlist him as your special helper. Grabbing diapers, picking out an outfit for baby, and helping push the stroller are all ways that can make your oldest feel included in the care of the baby.
- Show your oldest their own baby photos, share stories of what he was like as a baby, talk about how it felt to bring him home, tell him how excited everyone was to hold him, and tell him what he was like as a baby.
- Have a special box of toys or special treats that are only to be given while mama has alone time with the baby.
- It is important to spend time alone with the older sibling but also taking time to spend together as a family.
- Give the older sibling a gift ‘from’ their baby brother/sister and have visitors bring something small for the older sibling meant only for ‘big kids’ that he doesn’t have to share.
- Pick out a book to read during nursing sessions so he can enjoy closeness and cuddle time while you feed the baby.
- Stick to old routines. If your oldest went to daycare, continue to bring him there. When too many things in the household change, it can be frustrating to older siblings. Keeping some things consistent can help keep some normalcy in their lives.
- Remind visitors to pay special attention to your oldest that doesn’t include talking about their new baby sibling. Have guests spend a bit of time when they arrive just focusing on the oldest by playing a game, drawing, or asking him to show off his toys, that way he doesn’t feel like everyone coming in the home only wants to see the baby.
Starting early in pregnancy, before the birth, is a great way to allow your oldest to adjust slowly so not everything changes when baby is born.
Parents with two or more kids, we want to know what worked for you! Tell us in the comments section.