The news of a new baby on the way is some of the best a family can get, but it doesn’t come without its stresses especially if this is baby number two. As parents, you always want to ensure that your older children feel loved, appreciated, and excited even when they hear that a new baby is joining the unit. Nurturing a positive relationship between older and younger siblings is key to creating a smooth transition for everyone. You need to make sure they are prepared for this moment, so that they welcome their new brother or sister with open arms, excited for the challenges of being their new role model. For those that need some extra help understanding what you can do to help this process, here are our top tips to fostering a strong sibling bond.

Let’s Talk

From the moment you learn that there’s a baby on board, involve your child in the excitement. Sit them down and share the news in a way they can understand, you don’t want this to be a surprise. Use simple language and reassure them that nothing will change, that the house is about to be filled with more love than ever before. Make sure they feel open to ask questions and be as honest as can be while oversimplifying things for obvious reasons.

Read, Read, and Repeat

Reading books about new siblings is a great way to make your child understand what’s coming. There are tons of great books you can look for including Noelle the Best Big Sister, BIG, and The New Small Person. All of these and others are perfect to help your child learn all about what it’s like being an older sibling. Reading together also provides an opportunity for them to ask questions they won’t be able to think about on their own. It will create important discussions that help them grasp what is coming.  

Prep Time Begins

Get your older child involved in preparing the house for your newborn. Take them shopping for baby clothes, or let them help decorate the nursery. The more they are involved the more they’ll feel like an older sibling before the baby even comes. This will get them in the right headspace for when you finally introduce them to their new sibling. This is the perfect time to also instill positive older sibling traits so they are well prepared when their younger sibling arrives.

Practice Makes Perfect

This is a very important step because you don’t want to bring a newborn home and have your older child have no clue how to hold them (if they are old enough). Practice with dolls, teach them to sing lullaby songs and even show them how to change a diaper. This practice will help them understand how to play with a newborn. It can also give them a better sense of what is expected of them, as well as teach them what is allowed and what should never be done.

Personal Time

While everyone will be thinking about the new baby, there will also be times when the oldest feels left out and alone. Don’t let the anticipation take over and schedule time to give your child all the attention they need. If they feel left out they may resent you or the new baby. By giving them their own personal time, they’ll still feel as if nothing will change. Reassure them that your love and attention will always be there, even after the new baby arrives.

Set Expectations

While you can make them feel as if nothing will change, it’s true that things are inevitable to change. You can help them understand this by discussing realistic expectations. Be honest about the challenges such as less sleep and the additional responsibilities. You can also use this as an opportunity to tell them how they can help, which will in turn keep them excited about being an older sibling.

Their Feelings Matter

Throughout the adjustment period, acknowledge and validate your older child’s feelings. It’s normal for them to express a full range of emotions, even jealousy and insecurity. You need to be there for them when these moments happen and talk to them about how they feel. You want them to feel heard, and cared for especially when they are feeling down. While your attention at first will be with the newborn, they must always know that they will have you whenever they need you.

It’s very important to help older kids adjust to a new sibling using patience, understanding, and proactive conversations. You want them to feel involved in the process so that when the new sibling comes they aren’t shocked or unprepared. By starting these important talks early you can help nurture positive older sibling traits in your young one, before the newborn arrives. Remember, every child is unique so be flexible and adapt these tips to suit your child’s needs. If you take your time, and allow your child to naturally fall into their natural role of older sibling, you’ll have a very happy family for years to come.

And if you’ve ever got any questions about your children’s physical or mental health, feel free to reach out to your Coastal Kids pediatrician today, because keeping your family as happy and healthy as possible is our specialty.