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.  Have one parent watch the baby while the other parent spends uninterrupted time with the other child.  10 minutes of uninterrupted play time go a long way. Not to mention Play your child’s primary language, so when you take the time to get on their level, and play with them. You are communicating, I love you, you matter, and you are important to me, in their they most easily understand.

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 to never blame the baby for a reason you cannot do something. For example: instead of saying- “We can’t go to the park right now, your sister is still napping.” try saying, “We can’t go to the park right now, but we can go in a couple of hours.” This will help reduce the possibility of resentment that the baby is “taking from them.”

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.

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 support you and your child in this process, don’t hesitate to reach out on our contact page.