How to Prepare a Sibling for a New Baby

Being Pregnant, Bringing Home a New Baby Can Cause Insecurity for Older Child

For many second-time parents, one of the most anxiety-producing parts of having a new baby is worrying about how the change will affect your older child. Gaining a sibling is a life-changing experience and each child will react to the change in a different way, but there are ways to ease your child into the process.

It is understandable that a child may exhibit concerns and fears about a new arrival, especially if changes are made in his own life to accommodate the pending birth.

Changing beds or rooms may be stressful and unsettling for a young child. Parents should talk to their child regularly about what a new baby will mean in terms of their family lifestyle, render loving child discipline tactics, and provide extra reassurance that they will always be loved and cared for.

Ways to Prepare Older Child for Sibling

  • Include older child in the pregnancy by taking them to ultrasounds, encouraging them to feel the baby move in the belly and talking about the baby's growth.
  • Encourage older child to suggest names, pick out clothing, vote on the 'bringing baby home' outfit. 
  • Give older child a doll to practice taking care of "his baby".
  • Read books about new babies and how they impact families.
  • Talk about how things will change once the baby arrives (e.g. we will have to spend a lot of time taking care of the baby, the baby will cry and sleep a lot, we will need to accommodate the baby's needs) and about the benefits of the new baby (another family member to love, sibling to play with, etc). 
  • Talk about the older child's role as a "helper" and explain all the big important jobs the older sibling will have to help with the baby.
  • Take a a big siblings class if there is one offered in your area.
  • Talk through labor plans with older child - what happens if labor starts at night and what happens if it's during the day.
  • Let older children ask any questions and talk about their worries. 
  • When the baby is born, give older child a gift from the baby and have older child bring a gift for the baby.

What If My Older Child Acts Out?

It is very common for a sibling who is used to having parents all to him or herself to exhibit some unappealing or uncharacteristic behavior that is most likely due to severe anxiety about the new baby. Sometimes, the acting out is targeted to the pregnant mom. Oftentimes, a child may become overly-attached and attentive to parents before a new baby's arrival, only to act out in unexpected and inappropriate ways after the baby is born.

Acting out in such a way of hitting or kicking, screaming, defiance, or running away from instructions requires immediate child discipline intervention. A child cannot be allowed to continue these inappropriate behaviors, which could put a pregnant mom or newborn, at risk for safety. Consistent and firm routines and discipline is a must coupled with reassurance of love.

Parents too often let older kids get away with inappropriate and even threatening actions because they are concerned with a child's emotions. Rather, by rendering consistent and firm discipline, a child learns that you mean business and will not tolerate such behaviors targeted to you or the new baby.

After a child has spent sufficient time separated from the situation or in a time out, you should then reintroduce a child to his typical environment after you have had a loving and reassuring talk that also includes what behavior is expected. Always offer a loving hug, so that your child knows that your love is not tied to his behavior, but that he will certainly be disciplined consistently for acting out.

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