A new baby on the way is often a time of great joy and anticipation. For older siblings, however, it can be a time of jealousy, resentment, and even fear. If your only child is about to be joined by a new baby brother or sister and you are worried about how to share the news, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to make the announcement as joyful as possible. There are also many ways you can help your child feel important, valued, and excited about the adventure of being an older sibling.
Tell Your Child He Is Going to Be a Big Brother or She a Big Sister
Unless you are 100% certain, without a doubt confident, that your older child is more excited to bring home another baby than you are, don’t begin by asking your child what he or she thinks about the possibility of having a new baby in the family. If you’re already pregnant, there is nothing the older sibling can do about it and so he might not feel like his opinion matters (if he wasn’t so sure about the idea).
Instead, start by having some conversations about families, read some books about babies, and set a positive tone about the importance of older siblings.
- If you’re at the park and notice an older sibling being careful or helpful with a younger sibling, point out how wonderful that is to see.
- If you have siblings, share those wonderful, growing-up-with-siblings stories that emphasize the fun of a growing family.
- Praise qualities that show your child is becoming more independent – such as the way she can tie her own shoes or how he is so helpful with the sweeping.
Ways to Deal with Jealousy and Fear
If your child shows signs of fear or jealousy about the upcoming arrival, remember that they are often caused by the same concern – that somehow his or her place won’t be as important anymore and your relationship will change. Young children are very ego centered naturally, so the thought of sharing the home and parents with a stranger can be disconcerting. Some fears that are common in younger siblings-to-be include:
- sharing a bedroom with a crying baby
- sharing toys that are special
- sharing time and affection from parents
- changing routines in the home
- losing the spotlight as the only child
Reassure your child of the very special and irreplaceable place he or she has in the family. You can do this in many small ways.
- Designate a box for “special toys” that don’t have to be shared all the time.
- Ask for input on things like decorating the nursery or choosing baby names.
- Take pictures of your child posing with your belly to create a scrapbook of the “Big Brother” or “Big Sister”.
- Make a new tradition that you will likely be able to keep once the baby arrives, such as pancakes on Saturday mornings that the older sibling gets to decorate with sprinkles.
- Talk with your child about the special qualities he or she has that make for an amazing older sibling.
- Read books about becoming a big brother or sister.
When the big day finally arrives, keep your child excited and feeling special. Have ready a special token or acknowledgement of the big day. It can be a shirt that announces he is a big brother or a special gift to your daughter that is “from the baby”. Also make sure that you have plans and arrangements for help with caring for your older child while you are in the hospital and for the first few days at home. Special things like going for ice cream with Grandpa are things that only Big Kids get to do, after all.
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