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Preparing Siblings for a New Baby

Dear Debi,
My husband and I just welcomed our second child and our oldest is having a harder time adjusting than we expected. Is there any thing we can do to help him feel more comfortable?
Aanalee Haro Simon
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Spend daily one-on-one time with your child
  • Reinforce your child's role in the family
  • Acknowledge your child's feelings & be patient with regressive behavior
  • Let your child help with the baby
Expert Advice
Dr. Charles Sophy
Dr. Charles Sophy
Child psychiatrist
Children may react to the birth of a new baby by displaying behaviors that are usually regressive in nature, such as baby talk, losing milestones like toilet training, or not eating normally. Anger may seep out in different ways that wouldn't have come out before and there can be more negative attention-seeking, more aggression and separation anxiety that they weren't exhibiting before.

Toddlers tend to tantrum more, rebel by saying "no" more often, and may do the opposite of what they've been asked to do. What parents should remember is that if they feel angry, frustrated and confused - their kids are feeling the same, but with the big difference that they don't have the words to express those emotions.

Parents should acknowledge that kids are there and assure them that they're going to be there for them. Make sure that they have mom time, dad time, and mom AND dad time. The message is that the more controlled children feel in the situation of welcoming a new sibling, the better they'll feel and the calmer and more connected they'll be. Mom and dad have to be able to say that they're going to set aside 20 minutes to spend with the first-born. It shows them that they're still important.

It's important to let kids help with the new baby. Involving kids in the care of the new baby empowers them and helps them feel connected. It makes them a participant in the whole process instead of just an observer.

Parents should reinforce their child's role in the family, especially in the child's new role as "big brother" or "big sister." You can role-play with them, you can show them drawings of the new family and their role in it, you can show them how they've evolved to being big "kids." Empower them by age-appropriate means with books, drawings, toys, dolls and by asking them age-appropriate questions.

Before the baby arrives, talk to them, let them know what's happening and what to expect. Let them go to the OB appointments and see the ultrasounds, get their input on names, etc. Get your child to feel in control of their lives through knowledge, power and communication. When the baby comes, assign one adult that you'll feel confident and comfortable with to be with your child during the birth. Also, there are books that explain how babies come into the world. Once the baby arrives, allow them to see, hold and diaper change.
Child Care Provider Comments
Analee Haro Simon
Analee Haro Simon
Mother of two
My older son, Robert, recognizes that Charlie is a baby and he tries to help but he can sometimes be too rough. He tries to be nice but he doesn't know his own strength so I have to watch him. I always explain to Robert that Charlie is just a baby and that he has to be very gentle with him. Whenever Charlie cries, Robert comes over and comforts him.
Amie Souza
Amie Souza
Expecting her second child
My husband and I didn't talk about the pregnancy with our son, Ethan, until I started showing. We gradually started talking about it. We asked him, "Wouldn't it be fun to have a baby sister?" We started taking him to our ultrasound appointments. After Ethan saw the ultrasound pictures, he began to refer to the new baby as "baby sister bones." We talk to him about his new baby sister and we continue to read books to him. He is starting to get excited about the baby's arrival. He lifts my shirt and says, "Get her out."
Clarence Wilson
Clarence Wilson
Grandfather of ten
To help my granddaughter adjust to the arrival of the new baby, I spend a lot of quality time with her to see how she feels about everything. I ask her a lot of open-ended questions. "How do you feel about getting a new baby brother?" I reassure her that she has nothing to worry about and that the new baby isn't going to take her place.

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Preparing Siblings for a New Baby
Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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