Baby's Coming- Siblings Happy?

November 8, 2013

You buy books for your child about being a big brother. You have the children feel your tummy. You talk about how exciting it will be to be a big sister and all the things she can teach' her' new baby. But is that enough, or indeed effective at all?

I still vividly remember the day my neighbour's third child arrived home from the hospital. With a three year gap between child #1 and #2, she had enjoyed five years as the 'baby' of the family before the arrival of #3. The new arrival did not sit well with her at all. As her parents arrived home with the newest addition to the family, the now middle child sat on the bottom step inside the house regaled in lipstick, high heels and her mother's jewelry. She was very sad and desperate for attention--the odd thing being that she was getting more attention than anyone else in the house.

This scenario, or at least the emotion of it, is not uncommon. It is normal and natural for older children to be jealous of a new baby coming into the home.

So what can you, as a parent, do to prepare siblings for the baby's arrival as obviously the relationship between your children and your new baby is very important.

Here are a few suggestions.

  • Tell your child stories about when he was a baby -- how he or she was born and fed, and how you shared many hugs and so on.
  • Show your child photos of her as a baby.
  • Have your child listen to the baby's heartbeat and feel the baby kick in your stomach.
  • Talk with your child about what their new sibling will be like. Use books that show pictures of babies and discuss what babies can and cannot do.
  • Discuss the arrangements you have made for your child when you are going to the hospital well before the baby's due date.
  • Prepare the baby's bedroom well in advance, so your child can adjust.
  • Involve your child in preparations for the new baby including things such as packing your suitcase for the hospital and picking out baby's coming home clothes
  • When you come home from the hospital, let dad carry the baby so that you are free to greet your older child.
  • Give your child a new doll so he or she can practice caring for a "baby" too.
  • Have your older child and baby exchange gifts. Your older child may want to pick out a special gift for the baby.
  • Ask your friends and relatives to greet your older child before seeing the new baby.
  • Involve your child in caring for the new baby. Include jobs such as bringing the diaper to you, helping to dress, burp, and feed the baby.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a start. Some children seem to make this transition to older brother or sister effortlessly, while others struggle. I believe that parents can facilitate this process by thoughtfully and sensitively evaluating how their children are reacting and addressing these needs with small gestures and a lot of love.