Your family is expanding! Congratulations! Bringing home a new baby can bring lots of exciting feelings. Yet any type of change brings uncertainty, and with uncertainty often comes uncomfortable feelings. Siblings especially are vulnerable to an array of feelings, and don’t always quite know how to manage their new experiences. Whether you are a family of 3 or a family of 7, bringing home a new baby impacts all members of the family. With intention and support, you can help an older sibling cope with a new baby, and you’ll bring a little bit ease for all children involved.
Your family has been functioning in a predictable way that your child is used to. Bringing home a new baby is going to shift family dynamics, schedules, energy levels, availability and all sorts of nuanced experiences you may not be aware your child is having. Here are some ways to support the older sibling:
Talk with your child!
It is easy to dismiss the fact that children have the same emotional experiences we do. It is easy to forget their emotional range due to their inability to communicate how they are feeling. Keep in mind just as adults experience fear, embarrassment, worry, shame, guilt, loneliness, helplessness, and more, children do too. Regardless of your child’s age, talk with them about their feelings. CSEFEL is a resource geared for early childhood emotional development, and Kids Matter is a resource for supporting older children’s emotional development. Learn some new language and skills for talking to your child about their feelings.
Read with your child!
There are many wonderful children’s books out there to help your child understand the change they are about to embark on, as well as finding characters they can relate to who may share their same thoughts and feelings. Providing intentional time to read to your child will strengthen your relationship with each other, as well as build a foundation for learning how to navigate change together. Call your local library and see what they can provide!
Prepare your child!
Talk with your child often about how special your current lifestyle is, and talk about the changes that are ahead. Children love crafts and visuals. Using pictures you can create what your daily schedules look like now, what you hope it will look like in the future, and how you think it will actually play out. This can help children understand that your time together will shift, another person’s needs will be added to the daily schedule, and that change is inevitable. Talk about how fun and different change can be. Add lots of new adventures to your future schedule!
Play with your child!
One of the most challenging shifts for an older sibling is losing the attention they once had. One of the reasons we see children acting out is due to a need for more attention. This is normal! Help prevent misbehavior by giving your child some extra attention. Engage in activities they enjoy playing, let them choose the games you play together, and offer some creative relationship building activities!
Have some fun! North Shore Family Services encourages play, fun, and games as effective learning tools for life skills. Read this blog for some additional tips and ideas.
Life is change, and learning how to prepare and embrace change is a lifelong skill your child is developing. Help an older sibling cope with a new baby. Support them (and yourself) by planning ahead and preparing for the positive changes that are coming your way. North Shore Family Services is here to support you too. If you would like a little extra guidance and care for your family as you make this transition, please reach out and schedule a therapy appointment today!