Transitioning your child to becoming an older sibling is both exciting and challenging. While adding another child to the family provides your older child with a lifelong friend and playmate, the soon-to-be big sibling may feel reluctant to share their turf. Many parents worry about how their child will react to a new baby in the house and do their best to reassure their big kid that they are still very much loved and an important part of the family. There are some things you can do to make the transition easier for everyone. Here are some simple do’s and don’ts for each stage of the process of adjusting to a newborn in the home:
What to expect: Your child may anticipate that a change is coming as they watch you prepare the nursery and get things in order. They may start to act up because they don’t fully understand what is going on and the idea of a new baby seems abstract.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do put off off big changes like potty training or transitioning to a big kid bed.
- Do get a baby doll for big brother or sister to practice baby care.
- Do read books about families who add a new baby to the house.
- Do take the siblings class at the hospital, if offered and age appropriate.
- Do spend extra time with your child and reassure them that you love them.
- Don’t blame your limitations on the baby or the pregnancy, which can create negativity associated with the baby.
- Don’t promise an instant playmate.
At the Hospital
What to expect: When your child visits you at the hospital expect them to be off of their routine and possibly out of sorts. Your child may feel scared because they see mom in bed and they may worry you are sick. Some kids will seem aloof, worried, or act up because they are unsure of their surroundings. They may also feel nervous about meeting the baby everyone is excited about.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do greet them excitedly.
- Do make a big deal about the baby and the new big sibling.
- Do give them some undivided attention.
- Do take lots of photos of the big sibling moments.
- Do have some items to play with during the visit.
- Don’t frighten them when it comes to holding the baby.
- Don’t stay too long. Know your child’s time limitations.
What to expect: It is normal for your child to feel left out and jealous. Your child may go out of their way to get extra attention in both a positive and negative way. It’s normal for your child to have a variety of emotions as they adjust – excitement, joy, and pride, but also sadness, frustration, and jealousy. It takes time to adjust to a new family member.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do let them help with baby care (bring a diaper to mom, go get a clean blanket, sing a song to baby).
- Do set aside time to spend time alone with your big kid.
- Do let them know baby loves them and looks up to them.
- Do set up for distractions – have some books available to read while you are nursing or busy with baby care.
- Do make baby wait while you help your big kid.
- Do show them the benefits of being a big kid – big kids eat ice cream, play at the park, watch movies, and stay up later.
- Do reassure them you love them.
- Don’t place expectations that are too high.
- Don’t expect things to be exactly the same as before. Whenever you add another person to the family, it is a big transition. Things will be different.
- Don’t be surprised if your child has some behavior issues. Try to be patient with their reaction to a new little one in the house.
Adding another child to the family is a huge transition for any family. In time, things do fall into a routine and you will not remember when your newborn wasn’t part of the family. Your new big sibling will soon adjust to your growing family and develop a pride in their role as the older sibling.