From Only to Oldest: How to Help Your Child Navigate the World of Younger Siblings

Welcoming a new sibling into the family can be an exciting yet challenging time for older children in the house. They suddenly find themselves in a new role: becoming a brother or sister. As a parent, it’s important to help your child navigate this transition smoothly by fostering loving and supportive relationships with all members of the family. Let’s explore some tips on how to help your child adjust to the new sibling.

Prepare for the Arrival

Involve your child for the excitement of the new baby. Ask for their help in decorating the nursery, picking out toys, choosing the names, and buying new outfits. Educate them on what it means to be a big sibling and all the fun activities they can do together.

Set Expectations

While it may be difficult for them to understand, explain that babies require a lot of attention and care. Let them know that there will be times when you need to focus on the baby, but reassure them that you love them just as much, and that will never fade. Encourage patience by explaining that babies cry, sleep often, and need to be fed. Make connections by saying that used to be them when they were small.

Bonding Opportunities

Encourage bonding activities between siblings, such as helping with diaper changes, reading stories together, joint bath time, and playtime. As a parent, it is important to make all children feel equally loved and valued. Try to spend quality time with each child one-on-one. This will be important as the new baby arrives.

Kids can often feel jealous, especially because they may feel that the baby is getting more attention. Be sure to carve out alone time with the other kids too so they don’t feel forgotten.

Make sure you are still making time to bond individually with your oldest. Set aside special one on one time with Mom or Dad while the other parent watches the baby so there are no interruptions. Alternate times with the other parent.  Even 10 minutes of quality time playing with your child can make a world of difference in communicating that they matter and are still important to you.  Not to mention that Play is the language of a child, so when you get down on your kids level and play with them, you are communicating in their language-you love them, you see them, and they are still a priority.

Teach Empathy

Teaching emotions to your child is a great way to help them adjust to the new baby. Educate them about the baby’s needs by helping them relate to feelings of hunger, thirst, anger, sadness, and joy. Model empathy by showing compassion towards everyone’s feelings. Explain to your child how their expression of needs may look differently than the baby’s, but that does not mean their needs are more important.

Positive Reinforcement

Provide your child with praise when they are helpful and respectful of the new baby. Positive reinforcement can build confidence and strengthen the bond between the siblings. Celebrate milestones and achievements of both the older child and the baby, whether it’s baby’s first steps or your older child’s help with a chore.

Establish Boundaries

Setting boundaries can ensure that all children feel respected and safe. Teach the older child to be gentle with the new baby, such as soft touches, inside voices, and light play. If you feel your child becoming overwhelmed with the presence of the baby,  encourage them to take breaks, get a snack, or do a solo activity.

Be Patient and Flexible

Adjusting to a new family dynamic can take some time, so do not be discouraged if your older child takes some time getting used to the new addition. They are learning to navigate a new role and understand their emotions. It is important to remain open and flexible with routines and development. Behaviors may start to increase as the arrival date comes closer. Try to refrain from punishments as the older child adjusts to the idea of the new baby. Lastly it is very important to never blame the baby when the child is missing out. For example. If your child wants to go to the park but the baby is napping. Instead of saying, “we can’t go to the park, your sister is still napping.” Trying saying “We cannot go to the park right now, but we will go later this afternoon.”  This will helps your child to not resent your new baby for missing out on fun things.

Seek Outside Support

Supporting your older children while caring for a newborn can feel exhausting. As a parent, it is important you seek additional support from family, friends, and even a mental health professional. Engaging in individual or family therapy sessions can be a safe and nurturing environment to learn positive parenting techniques, coping skills, and processing the adjustment of the family dynamic.  If you would like to learn more about how we can help, fill out our contact form and we will reach out.