New Baby, New Siblings
[module:ad:13]When a family gets bigger, it may experience growing pains. A new addition can be a roller-coaster ride for families, from intensely joyous to intensely stressful. Here are some ideas on how to make the transition easier:
- Prepare by telling your child about a new baby coming, looking at his or her old baby pictures and tiny clothes, and talking about possible names. Help your child feel positive and included in the process of your family growing.
- Your child may need some time with the transition of becoming an older sibling once the baby arrives. Be sure to arrange for special time with mom, dad and extended family to help your child feel secure and safe during this time of change. Understand that he or she may act like a baby to get attention. Redirect this behavior with praise for the great things he or she does as a “big kid.”
- Under adult supervision, give your child special jobs, from carrying baby wipes to helping with bathtime, to help him or her feel connected to the new baby. Ask your child his or her opinion about a story to read with the baby, and have your child point things out in the book to “teach” the baby.
Sibling Memories and Tips:
“My parents did not go beyond the eighth grade but they had very good instincts. In my own childhood, I was 4 ½ years old when my sister was born and my parents were very wise and good in bringing me into the circle of caring for her. Instead of setting up some kind of competition for their affections, they set me up to care for her. We would watch her to make sure she did not turn over onto her face, and they would let me play with a toy with her to make her laugh. 70 years later, she is my best friend.”—Sheila James Kuehl, Los Angeles County Supervisor and First 5 LA Board Chair
“My quick tip for introducing a new sibling to the family is to create a baby boot camp a few months prior to new baby being born! I did this for my first daughter and it worked incredibly well. Assuming the older sibling is just a few years old (between 1-5 years apart), get them a doll to ‘practice’ taking care of a new baby months before baby is born. I enlisted my older daughter, who was one-and-a-half at the time, to change diapers, feed, swaddle and put her own baby doll to bed “just like Mommy will do soon” before her little sister was born. Giving the older sibling a job, and making them ‘Mommy’s Best Helper,’ before the baby is born (i.e. train them to get involved ahead of time, like a boot camp!), can make the transition super easy. Drive home the fact that big brother/sister is part of the TEAM to help with new baby—ask them to fetch diapers, help with getting baby a blanket, etc.—it makes them feel empowered instead of envious.” – Jill Simonian, The FAB Mom
“When I was pregnant with my son, Zion, I got two tidbits that I found helpful and always pass along to mamas:
- I made sure to have Zion’s bassinet next to me when they met for the first time so that when Hannah entered the room I could welcome her with open arms, give hugs and kisses, and then have her meet her brother. It can be jarring for the older sibling to walk in the room after mommy’s been away for a day or two in the hospital (if you go that route) and walk into this new family dynamic.
- I had a gift for Hannah from Zion. A little stuffed animal or something but just a little something to make her feel special and affectionate towards her brother. She was too young to know that it couldn’t possibly be a reality [that he actually bought her the gift].” – Marquita Terry-Lanier, Love the Laniers
“With my first daughter, she was a bit older so she understood the concept of a new baby coming into the family. She was fortunate enough to have cousins around to keep her company, but she would get sad when they would have to go home. So with her, we just asked her how she felt about possibly having a little sister or brother. She was on board with it. Every child responds differently to news, so you also have to get a feel for what your child would be okay with. My oldest loves helping and participating, so we kept her involved in the shopping and with some ultrasound appointments. She loves shopping so taking her on shopping trips to help decorate her sister’s room was fun. Make your child feel like they are an important part of the process—because they are.
Before I decided to have my second daughter, I never did much ‘research’ in regards to adding more children to the family. After I decided to have my third child, I read a little bit more and the one [piece of] advice I found most helpful was to always focus on your oldest children because they understand and are more aware of their surroundings. It’s hard on them when you bring someone new into the family, especially with all the visitors. Everyone is so focused on the new addition that they forget that there are older children in the family. Once my son came into the picture, there was a strong emphasis on the girls and their bond: taking them on day dates and letting them know that mommy would be extra busy with the baby and that I would need tons of help. Extra praise and hugs are very important. Let baby cry every so often if one of [your older children] needs you.” – Leslie Acuña, Administrative Assistant, First 5 LA Communications Dept.
“As a mama to four, I know a thing or two about how to help moms prepare their child for a new sibling. As a childrenswear designer, I made T-shirts that read ‘Big Brother/Big Sister’ and gifted the child early on to start the preparation. Together, we would go over old images of each child to show their progression from infant to toddler to adolescent and talk about each developmental level. While giggling at some of the images like watching them learn to roll over, sit up, or walk, I would explain how the new baby would go through these stages and how they were going to need their attention just like when they were babies.
When it came to images of walking, using the potty, riding a trike, or starting t-ball, I explained how each skill was acquired and how awesome it was going to feel when they would be able to teach their skills to the new baby when the time came. Giving my older child(ren) an important role in the family helped them feel connected to the new baby and their place in their growing family.
I also made sure to develop openness and opportunities for my older children to discuss their feelings about having a younger sibling. Like with the tees and pictures, this started early on because I knew how difficult it was to divide my attention. By checking in with my older children early and often and by letting them know they were safe with all of their emotions (good/‘bad’/indifferent), that I was there for them. This helped reassure them that they were special and that their feelings were valued.
As my children grew, with each subsequent child, I’d hug and kiss on them, and much to their chagrin, still call them all my babies.” – Sonia Smith-Kang, Mixed-Up Clothing