Prepping Siblings for New Baby
January 09, 2015
Posted By: Shaunescy
WRITTEN BY DONNA KELSCH
You are having a baby. I mean, the family is having a baby. It’s an exciting time that can also be stressful, which means anxiety ridden. Here are some simple steps to help alleviate anxiety and sibling rivalry, so you can celebrate and relish in the joy of a new child.
Prepare for the new baby
» Bozeman Deaconess and St. Peter’s Hospital both offer classes to assist siblings in preparing for the baby. Children get to learn about babies and how families often change. They also get to see where their mom will be after she delivers the baby. Preparing children for the unknown allows them to feel like a part of the baby delivery.
» Older children can look at pictures of their birth and babyhood. More importantly, share stories of your excitement from when your older kiddos were born. Another technique is to put a baby picture of the older sibling(s) in a prominent place in the home and one in the new baby’s room.
» Prepare the older child for how the family will change when the baby comes home. Explain that mom will be tired and the baby will take a lot of mom’s time. The baby won’t be much fun for a few months and will basically just cry, sleep, poop, cry, pee, eat and sleep some more. Explain that crying is not pain or anger but the only way the baby can communicate. Since we were adopting two babies, we decided to make their crying a game. We would see which one of us was best at distinguishing the different cries. Share the game with the older child to determine if the baby is tired, has a wet or dirty diaper, or is hungry. This will help them understand that crying is like talking for a baby. It’s also a great time to reinforce the concept of communicating through words to get what they want from you and not crying.
» If the baby’s arrival means that a sibling will need to change bedrooms, be sure to do this months before the baby arrives so the older child does not feel misplaced by the baby. Also be aware of any other major changes such as weaning, toilet training, starting preschool or child care. Make as many necessary changes months before the birth of the baby, or wait until after.
Have a birthday party and let all of the siblings help plan the party. They can make a cake and decorations for the baby’s arrival in the home. Since it is a birthday party, allow the siblings to buy gifts for the baby; preferably ones that you will need to buy anyway (pacifiers, bibs, pj’s, etc.).
Ways to prevent sibling rivalry
For your sanity, here is some research regarding sibling adjustment when a new child enters the family. The child’s personality is the most critical factor in determining their adjustment. Children who bonded more closely with their mothers are the most upset after a baby is born, whereas children with closer relationships to their fathers tend to adjust better.
» Your child may regress developmentally. If your child wants to be “babied,” do it. Each parent should spend 10 minutes a day of one-on- one time with the older children directing an activity. Be prepared and plan on special time with all of the older children.
» The other possibility is that older children may act overly responsible for their new sibling. If your child is taking on too much responsibility, tell them you appreciate their help, but that you are the parents and can take care of the baby and them. Our son became overly mature. I was talking to him a few months after the adoption and asked if he was upset about adopting his brother and sister. His response frightened me. He said, “No, it was my decision.” Yikes. This told me we did a great job preparing him, but a bad job with setting boundaries. Thankfully, we had time to correct our mistake.
Regardless of whether your children regress or becomes overly mature, they need extra cuddling. Just make it a point to spend cuddle time with your other kiddos every day.
Help older children put words to their feelings about the baby. Even negative feelings, if expressed, are a relief. Never deny the child’s emotions; listen and accept. Of course you can never allow any hurting, so give the child another manner of venting their hurt or angry feelings such as drawing or doing physical activities.
Hopefully anyone who comes to visit the baby will be sensitive to the needs of your other children. Make sure they acknowledge and greet siblings before the baby. If they bring a gift for the baby, have some small gifts available for your older children in case the visitor didn’t bring anything for them. Most visitors will understand.
Enjoy your blessing; it goes by so fast. As a friend recently told me, the days go slow but the years fly by. Cuddle and enjoy the long days.
Dr. Donna Kelsch is a licensed professional counselor with Tri Therapy.
Tri Therapy provides counseling and assessments for teens, couples and families.
Call 406-404-1009 for an appointment or contact her via web at tritherapymt.com
or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Dr. Donna lives in Bozeman with her husband and three children.