Big Sister, Big Brother: Making Room for Everyone When a New Baby Arrives

Here are some ways to facilitate the rainbow of emotions for your kids when you are expecting a new one.

A new baby’s pending arrival can be earth-shattering news, especially if your children are young themselves. One mother we talked to said when she broke the news about her pregnancy to her toddler son, he replied: “Why do you need another one? I want to be the only one.”

For kids who are around 2-5, they are still very much in the “me” phase of development, and so the notion that someone else will be hogging all of mommy’s attention and affection is simply too much to bear.

And conversely, that age is also the time when children move from solitary play toward group play1, and so the idea that they will have a built-in playmate is an exciting prospect. So expect both the territorial reactions and the enthusiasm; kids will vacillate back and forth between many emotions (as you will) about the new arrival. So even before you get pregnant, here are some things to think about when talking to your child or children about a new baby.

 

Depending on their age, your children will likely have a very mixed bag of emotions about having a sibling.

Communication with your children in an ongoing and open fashion is absolutely the most important thing you can do. By listening and being congruent with their state of mind (even if we disagree on their stance), you will show them that you love them and you care what they think and how they feel.

The new school of thought on talking with children is age-appropriate updates. Find simple ways to convey what is happening and what is going to happen. Keeping them in the loop is a way of preparing them, giving them time to adjust. Take the time to answer questions because uncertainty is a big part of the worry.

Don’t wait until your new baby is born; let your older ones make friends with the baby in the womb. We know now that babies can sense us in utero, so talking, laughing, singing – they’re hearing it all. Explain that they can hear their new sibling’s voice and include the baby in conversation.

Another great way to illustrate and reinforce positive attitudes toward new siblings is storytelling. There are some fantastic pictures books out there that portray the challenges and anxiety some kids experience with a baby on the way, and then show some strategies and some obvious benefits of being a big brother or sister. We recommend Julius, the Baby of the World, by Kevin Henkes and Rodeo Red by Meripat Perkins and Molly Idle. Both these titles are sensitive examples of the new baby theme.

In that same vein, give your kids the opportunity to explore their new helper and teacher identities. If you have a larger family, the older children can actually be instrumental in guiding the younger ones through their feelings and their new roles. Very often, with coaxing, children rise to the occasion quickly, after all, it feels good to be the older one.

Another good idea is to plan for some quality time and special activities for your children after the baby arrives. This way you get the sleep you need and they feel attended to, and like life isn’t going to come to a screaming halt. During that time, emphasize appreciation for their willingness to pitch in and help.

Many parents say that having children made them better people. One of the reasons is that we are suddenly presented with a mirror of our own behaviors, attitudes, and postures toward the world. There is no stronger example of you than the little one who is following you around all day repeating everything you say. We then arrive at the understanding that if we want then to be healthy, happy, loving people, we must model that ourselves.

It doesn’t mean we have all the answers or that we are 100% confident all the time, but it does mean that we acknowledge the very natural dynamics that come up around expecting a new member of the family.

 

References:

  1. http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-development/play-work-of-children/pl3/

 

About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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