Preparing for a New Addition: Helping Older Siblings Adjust 

By: Kate Quattlebaum

Having a baby is a big change for the entire family. It can be exciting and full of joy, but it can also be nerve-wracking and stressful. If you already have children, anticipating their reaction can add to the stress. Don’t worry, below are a few tips on how to help older siblings adapt to a new addition!iStock-696315498.jpg

  • Expect Mixed Feelings and Be Empathetic: Often times once their new sibling becomes a reality instead of just a bump in mommy’s tummy, there are often mixed feelings. Children often worry that things will change with the new arrival. The first step in helping your child manage these feelings is letting them know you understand them and validate the emotion. After you validate their feelings, help your child find acceptable ways to express these emotions. Encourage them to talk about their frustrations and think about coping tools they can use.
  • Avoid Pressure: Babies aren’t very active in their first few months, so for an older child there aren’t many immediate rewards for interacting with them. In addition, a new baby represents someone who is taking their spotlight. Lastly, the older sibling feels pressure to love the baby it can actually end up pushing them away. With patience and space, your older child is more likely to make a positive connection. Teach
  • Safe Interactions: It can be hard for a child to understand to be gentle. A good way to show to your child correct interactions is to use a doll or stuffed animal to demonstrate gentle, appropriate interactions. Avoid reacting with anger if the older child is too forceful. To correct the behavior, calmly take their hands and show them how to safely engage with their younger sibling. The important part is making the correction about the rule rather than the younger sibling to avoid feelings of rivalry.
  • Don’t Loosen Limits: It’s common for parents to feel guilty about all the changes a new baby brings. Sometimes we try to make it up using extra treats or gifts or even loosening the rules and previously established limits.Unfortunately, indulging your child can lead to unintended, negative consequences.
Adding a new sibling to the family can be a chaotic time but is one of the greatest gifts. Through all the crying and bickering, having a sibling teaches children how to share and cooperate. In addition, it builds empathy or awareness of another’s needs. So buckle up, it’s going to be a wild, wonderful ride!
Source: Zero to Three

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