The arrival of a new baby can bring several changes to one’s life. Parents start investing their time and energy on arrangements and after the arrival of the baby most of the family’s attention includes caring for the infant. These transformations can be both a thrilling and a challenging experience for the older sibling. Therefore, it is crucial for the parents to tell their already born children about the new member and prepare them accordingly for the changes in the family life which might vary depending on the age difference. There are chances that the younger children are most likely to regress when a new baby arrives. And jealous older siblings can make the shift harder by exhibiting signs of aggression and anger because their need for time and closeness is still great.  Older children tend to understand something in a more sophisticated manner and may go through deep feelings of envy. To tackle such circumstances parents need to prepare the older children beforehand and help them feel involved in the process.

How to Prepare Children for New Sibling

It is better when children get more time to get used to the idea of a new baby. Parents should speak directly to their children around the same time when they are informing others about the new baby. A child shouldn't discover about their new sibling from other relatives or grandparents. The parents should also give children the required amount of time to ask all the requisite questions. Depending upon the age of the child the questions should be answered concretely. During the announcement of the baby, the parents can give a small note or a gift to the elder sibling on behalf of the younger one, which says “I am coming” or “Excited to play with you”. Parents can also send a ‘gift on arrival’ to the older one when the baby is born which leads to a feeling of warmth from the other child.  Parents can also involve their preschoolers in any plans regarding the baby. Picking and choosing items for the little sibling will make them more comfortable about the baby in the future. One of the key points is to try and finish toilet training or switching to a proper bed before the arrival of the newborn. Or else the older child might feel overwhelmed with the new things along with the changes. Showing the child pictures of when their mother was pregnant with them, as well as pictures of them as newborns and babies can help in easing the process. In addition, if the child is older, parents can share their birth story or read books about having a baby.

Arrival of the new baby

  1. Acknowledge all Bad Feelings- Parents should help the older child realize that it’s okay for them to experience and express bad feelings for their siblings. The child also needs to feel secure enough to exhibit their anger no matter how it appears. Parents should never abandon or neglect such feelings in a child. However, there needs to be a fine line drawn and a limit must be set, for instance, the child cannot express anger physically. The child needs to know that their emotions are acceptable but not their behaviour.
  2. Give your children acceptable ways to express feeling-  Young children especially toddlers and preschoolers don’t know that expressing feeling by words can also be an option. They just realize the emotion which causes them to react and can’t be contained by them. As a parent one should train their child and provide them with a substitute tool or give them words they can use. Other things like role play with the child, engaging in activities can also help them vent out their feelings.
  3. Avoid reinforcing sibling roles- Parents should always keep in mind that they are not unintentionally casting expectations on to their children based on the birth order. A special time should be designated for the older child. Reading, listening to music, playing games or simply talking together can be of great help. Let the child know that he/she is loved and wanted. A mother can also make him part of things like- cuddling the child while feeding the baby etc.
  4. Incorporate support from friends and family- Whenever family members or friends come over to see the newborn ask them to spend a little time with your older child as well. This will make the child feel special and not left out of all the excitement. The visitors can also give him/her a small present when they bring something for the baby. Other than that, parents should also make sure that the older children spend adequate time with their fathers, as a new baby presents a great opportunity for fathers to spend quality time with older ones.
  5. Make the older child feel involved- When the new baby is home, parents need to make the older sibling feel that he/she has a role to play in caring for the baby.  Parents can also refer to the new baby as “our baby”, and ask the older child to hold the baby, with permission. Praising the child whenever they are gentle and loving toward the baby can be of great help. Parents should never overlook the older child's needs and activities. Apart from that, efforts need to be made to spend some time alone with the older child each day and remind them how special they are.
March 17, 2021 — Dr. Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi
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