A new baby in the family always brings about a lot of changes. Many parents devote a substantial amount of time and effort on pre-birth planning, followed by post-birth care around the clock. As such, these changes can be very hard on the older siblings. They may experience feelings of jealousy and even start acting out. While these feelings are normal, there are some ways that parents can prepare the older siblings for the new-born child.
Start at the Beginning
The best time to prepare your older child for their new baby sibling is before the baby is born. Share the good news in an honest yet easy to understand manner and highlight the positive changes that they can expect. For example, “There is a baby growing inside of my belly. You are going to be a big brother soon!”
Toddler & School Age Children
When announcing the family news, toddler and preschool children may not be able to grasp the concept of time, so it may be easier if you refer to the time the baby comes with a seasonal event. For example, instead of saying “in a few months”, you might say the baby will arrive in spring when all the pretty flowers bloom.
When the baby comes, you can encourage your older child to get involved by:
- Inviting them to help you pick out items including clothing or furniture
- Handing you nappies during a nappy change or a towel after bath time
- Making faces to entertain the baby or singing the baby a lullaby at bedtime
- Folding the baby clothes. See Montessori Practical Life activities.
Whenever they get involved, actively acknowledge their effort to remind them that you value their help and that their contribution makes a difference. If your older child does not seem interested to help, start with some simple favours like asking them to see if the baby is still asleep.
While teenagers may be more naturally inclined to care for their new sibling, they are usually the most helpful when their decision to help comes from a place of love, and not parental pressure. You may involve your teenager by asking them to babysit while you get the groceries, or perhaps you might ask them to help you feed the little one. Teens are much more inclined to be helpful when they feel caring for the baby is not a chore.
What if the older child acts out?
Tantrums, sass, or attitude typically all stem from an unmet need. Whether it’s jealousy or fear of being replaced, make sure that you listen carefully and acknowledge the older child’s feelings. Make time for your older child and reassure them reassure them that you love them, and that nothing can replace your love.
Most of the time, the older child just needs a break from the overwhelming feeling that everything is about the new baby. It may help to ask another family member or a friend to watch the baby while you take the older child out and enjoy some one-on-one time together.