Bringing a new baby into the family packs quite the emotion-punch. Oh, all the emotions: Joy. Sadness. Fear. Just-let-me-sleep. (That’s an emotion, right?) Elation. Contentedness. Anxiety. And that’s all in a matter of just ten minutes. AmIright?!
If you’re anything like me, you might experience anxiety over how your family as a whole will adjust to the change. How will the older children react? Will we be able to transition well? Will the older siblings treat the baby kindly? Or will they feel jealous?
We recently added a fourth child to our family. The transition was fairly seamless, and although all our children have been less than two years old when they were bumped from baby status, they’ve dealt quite well with the change.
I believe that being intentional about how you approach the upcoming arrival of baby makes a big influence on how your family welcomes the addition.
Below are three tips to prepare siblings for a new baby:
1. PREP THEM (EARLY ON)
It may be obvious, but welcoming a baby into the family begins well before the baby actually comes home.
Talk about the baby during pregnancy. If you’ve chosen a name for the child, share it with the older siblings. Having a name will help your older children bond with baby. Talk about upcoming changes in the family. Discuss how the baby should be treated. Demonstrate the level of gentleness that a newborn requires. Allow siblings to feel the baby kick and move. Let them talk to the baby “in your tummy.” Borrow books on new babies from the library to help them get used to the idea.
Generally, integrate the baby in your everyday dialogue and interactions as much as possible. This practice will absorb much of the shock before the newbie actually arrives.
2. AFFIRM THEM
It’s no secret that babies are show-stealers. They are teeny and adorable and extremely needy; therefore, they demand much attention.
For older siblings to feel a little left out or emotionally overlooked is normal. But you can alleviate these negative feelings by consciously affirming your older children every chance you get. Remind them nothing will ever change your love for them, specifically. When you reflect on the baby’s birth story, make comments about your older children’s births as well. Share their stories to let them know that their own birth is every bit as special to you. Remark about memorable moments during siblings’ early weeks.
Showering older siblings with extra affection will also help them feel loved during the transition. Use feeding times for baby throughout the day as intentional moments to read to the siblings or talk to them. Give hugs liberally. If you’re holding the baby and don’t have an extra arm, provide solid eye contact during conversations. (Direct eye contact is actually a form of touch and one of the most important ways to affirm your child!)
Overall, take every opportunity to affirm your love for older siblings and show extra affection in your own special way.
3. INCLUDE THEM
When the baby arrives, include siblings in as much of the care as you can.
Let brother and sister help in ways appropriate to their own maturity level. The 18-month-old can bring you wipes and diapers. The four-year-old can be taught to warm up a bottle. The 12-year-old can change diapers for you (or so I imagine!). Give them an chance to help decide what the newborn needs next (even if the opportunity is mostly perceived!). “Well, baby just woke up from nap, we changed her diaper; what do you think we should do next?”
Don’t be so afraid that the siblings will hurt the baby that you don’t allow them to show their affection. Be vigilant, but let brothers and sisters hold, cuddle, kiss, gently high-five… whatever they want to show their love for the newcomer. Remember that the goal is to encourage love between bonded siblings, and they need the opportunities to bond with baby, as well.
As with all major life transitions, there will be difficult moments with the new addition. There will be bouts of jealousy and anger. But with intentionality and care, the transition can be as sweet as that newborn smells.
What are some tips you have learned to prepare siblings for a new baby? Please comment below!