Birth of a New Sibling
The birth of a new sibling can feel threatening to a child. Here is what to expect and how to make sure your child/ren are just as ready for the new addition as you are:
What to Look for
Young children can express their anxiety about the birth of a sibling in a variety of different ways, including changes in a child’s behavior, expression of emotion, and any changes in sleeping or eating patterns. Many of these behaviors might take the form of acting out inappropriately. It is important for parents to understand the underlying anxiety that leads to the inappropriate behavior and to address that, rather than simply responding to the inappropriate behavior itself.
Preparing a Child for the Arrival of the Baby
The more confident, comfortable and happy parents are when discussing the news of a new baby can help a child begin to form a positive association with the baby. Involving children as much as possible in the preparations (both psychological and physical) can really help children feel like they have an important role as a big brother or big sister. Incorporating children in decisions such as the baby’s name, color of the nursery, etc. are some ways to make children feel important in this process.
Preparing children for the actual delivery and birth can also be important in reducing their anxiety around the event. Explaining to the child exactly what will happen, where they will go, how long they will be there for and what things will be like before during and after the delivery can help children anticipate the event. Taking the child on a tour of the maternity ward and nursery can also help ease their anxieties.
Parents can also enlist children as “mommy’s (or daddy’s) special helper” to take care of the baby and teach the baby new things. Giving young children special “big brother” or “big sister” tasks can really decrease their sense of losing important parent time and attention and boost self confidence. Examples of special tasks include bringing diapers, blankets, pacifiers or bottles when needed, entertaining a wiggly baby while they are being changed, turning lights off or volumes down so the baby can fall asleep, teaching the baby to smile, coo, babble, roll over, crawl, stand, walk, etc. It is also important for parents to notice things children do that are helpful and positive. Frequently noting how wonderful a big brother or big sister they are and how lucky the baby is to have such a great big brother or big sister can really motivate children to continue doing more positive things.
Parents should also be aware of how much less attention and energy is still being given to the older sibling. Every effort should be made to have special one-on-one time between parents and older siblings.
Communicating with Older Siblings
Parents can communicate to children that they do understand that it is hard for them to miss out on some of the things that they had grown accustomed to and how bad that can feel. Parents can also take that opportunity to teach children different ways of coping with that and communicating to them that no matter how busy their lives have become, they will always be available to help them with their feelings.