Growing your family is one of the most amazing processes in life. However, adding a new sibling can get complicated when you have a son or daughter who is used to being an only child. But like all family dynamics, love, patience, and positive processes will make all the difference.
Get your children’s relationship with each other started on the right foot. Follow these tips for helping your firstborn adjust to new siblings.
1. Discuss the Older Sibling Role
Before the baby arrives, it’s essential to talk to your firstborn about their new role. Everything in your child’s life is about to change! Talking about these changes helps prepare your child for the upcoming change in their life.
After the baby arrives, it’s still important to continue to talk to your firstborn about their relationship with their new sibling. Communicating with your child helps them work through their emotions and enables you to understand how they feel. And through these conversations, you can set realistic expectations for how your child should interact with the baby.
Use resources like books and kids’ shows to explain the baby, the sibling relationship, and a growing family. You can find many enjoyable stories that can give your child guidance. Once the baby has arrived, give your child positive feedback and praise for being a wonderful older sibling.
2. Involve Your Firstborn in Preparations
Whether you’re creating a new nursery or reusing many of your firstborn’s items for the new baby, involve your child in preparations. You can ask your child’s opinions on baby clothes, bedding, and toys. You can let your child choose a few items to put on the registry, and you can also purchase items with your child to give them a physical reminder of the baby.
Involving your firstborn in preparations will let them use their creativity and thoughtfulness. And when the baby arrives, you can remind your firstborn of how their decisions for the baby have helped. Your child will feel included, loved, and appreciated through this process.
3. Let Your Firstborn Help
The next tip for helping your firstborn adjust to a new sibling is to let them help you. Your firstborn is likely to feel jealous sometimes when you give your baby attention. Letting your firstborn help you throughout the day keeps them busy and feeling included.
You can let your child fetch things for you, like diapers, bottles, or toys. Maybe your child will want to help push the baby in the stroller. Or perhaps they will like helping you dress the baby.
Even if your child’s help makes these processes take longer, having your firstborn help develops their motor skills and lets them know you still love and appreciate them.
4. Monitor Interactions
Monitor and comment on your child’s interactions with the baby. When your child hands the baby a toy, you can praise them for their generosity and thoughtfulness. If you let your child hold the baby, talk to them about how gentle and kind they’re being and show them how the baby responds.
Invite your child to talk about the baby. While you observe them together, ask your child to describe what the baby is doing or feeling. Have conversations with your child about how they’re a great older sibling and highlight their positive behaviors.
If you notice your child is about to be rough with the baby, pick the baby up and distract the child with an activity or conversation. If your child mistreats the baby, whether accidentally or through frustration, hold the baby and make sure they’re ok, then turn to your child and remind them to treat the baby gently. You can verbally explain this behavior and then model it. Encourage your child to follow your lead.
Stay patient with your child and help them learn how to interact with the baby. Continue to model good behaviors and praise your child for treating the baby well. Over time, your child will become more gentle.
5. Talk About Your Firstborn’s Feelings
While you want your firstborn to feel happy about the new baby, you should prepare for your child to feel resentful or displaced. Toddlers and young children crave attention, and when a new baby arrives, it can be challenging for your firstborn to accept that they must share their parents’ attention.
Your firstborn might have moments have anger or sulkiness. They might even undergo a period of regression and act like a baby by asking to drink from a bottle or wanting to sleep in the crib.
Reassure your firstborn that you love them. Don’t reply negatively to non-dangerous behaviors you don’t want them to engage in. Instead, reward your child and praise them for doing the right things. Do your best to stay flexible, understanding, and patient in this transitional period.
6. Spend One-on-One Time Together
While juggling the responsibility of raising multiple kids, it can be easy to forget that your firstborn still needs one-on-one time with you. Carve out moments where you can focus your attention on your firstborn and do things with them without the baby present.
You might do things with your firstborn around the house while your baby sleeps. Or have a close friend or relative take care of the baby while you go out with your child to the park or the library. These special moments reassure your child that you still have a special bond that will never change.
7. Give Your Firstborn Some Space
Naturally, your firstborn will sometimes want space to do their own thing without thinking about the baby. Let your child explore and play in a safe environment freely. As your firstborn develops new interests to explore, encourage them and cultivate those interests.
Don't force closeness if your child does not want to interact with the new baby very much. Your child might need time to adjust to the new person in their life. Eventually, they will feel more comfortable interacting with their little sibling.
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