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How to Help Your Child Adjust to a New Sibling

How to Help Your Child Adjust to a New Sibling

Sibling rivalry usually starts right after, (or even before) the arrival of the second child. The older child often becomes aggressive, “acts out,” and in some cases, regresses by acting more like a baby. This may include wanting a bottle, or peeing in their pants.

Having a new baby in the family may be one of the toughest things your older child has to deal with.  However, you can eventually make it one of their greatest gifts by telling them what to expect, and giving them time to adjust.

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Start with these steps:

1. Tell your child about your pregnancy when you tell your friends.  Your child needs to hear about it from you, not from someone else.

2. If you plan to move your child to a new bed and/or bedroom, do so well before the baby arrives, so your older child doesn’t feel displaced by the baby. This also goes for any other major changes, like weaning, toilet training, and starting preschool or child care.

3. Give them a realistic idea of what to expect when the baby first arrives.  You will be tired, and the baby will take lots of your time.  The baby will not be able to do much at first, except eat, sleep, poop, pee and cry. The baby will not be a playmate.

4. Visit lots of friends with a new baby. See hello to others you meet at the mall, and countdown to the arrival of the new baby together.

5. Read books about baby siblings with your child, giving them a chance to ask questions, voice concerns, and vent feelings inspired by the books.

6. Look at pictures/video of your older child’s birth and babyhood.  Tell them about their birth and what they were like as a baby.  Tell them how excited you were when they were born, and how everyone wanted to see and hold them.

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7. Have your child practice holding a doll and supporting the head.  Teach them how to touch and hold a baby very gently.

8. Let them participate in preparations in any way possible.  Give them choices, such as choosing the baby’s coming home outfit from two acceptable options.

How can I help my child adjust when baby arrives?

1. Set aside special time for your older child.  Each parent should spend some one-on-one with the older child every day.  It’s amazing how much even just 10 minutes of uninterrupted one-on-one time can mean to your child (and help their behavior!).  Let your child choose the activity, and you follow their lead.

2. Listen—really listen—to how your child feels about the baby and the changes in your family.  If they express negative feelings, acknowledge them.  Help your child put their feelings into words.  Never deny or discount your child’s feelings.

3. Make sure it is very clear that absolutely no hurting is allowed.  Give your child other ways to express bad or angry feelings they may have toward the baby.  For example, they could draw an angry picture of the baby.

4. “Baby” your child, if that’s what they seem to crave.  This may help starve off regression in areas that are less acceptable to you.  There is a tendency to suddenly expect your child to become more independent when you have a new baby.  If you expect less independence, you are more likely to get more!

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5. Have some special “big brother” or “big sister” gifts to give your child as friends and relatives start showing up with baby gifts, so your older child won’t feel left out.

6. Devise subtle way to remind visitors to pay attention to your older child, and not just the baby.

7. Make sure the older child has some special, private space, and things of their own that they don’t have to share with the baby.

8. Give them special jobs that they can do to help the family and help with the baby’s care (but don’t overdo it—take your cue from your child on this).

9. Let them participate in the baby’s care—baths, dressing, pushing the stroller, etc.

10. Point out the benefits of having a sibling.


View Comments (21)
  • Thanks mim. I wish I had this info before my second born came out

  • Message.. Yes ooo soo on point hnmm I remember when I was pregnant for my 2nd baby I usually bring my 1st son close to me n make him touch my tummy n I wil tell him then its ur baby brother inside n he so adapted to it that every morning he will wake up touch my tummy n say Tata tata*meaning baby baby. When I put to bed immediately he saw his little brother de first tin he said was baby baby n everybody was laffing n till now he cherish his little brother a lot. Thanks adim for sharing its really gonna help some pple

  • Thanks for sharing, i had the experience and it was like magic, he loved her from the moment he saw her cos he’s been prepared and waiting earnestly.

  • Tnkx my siblin sis use use to do dis when she was pregnant for her second baby she use to tell d first child to come ad tourch ad kiss baby in utero.

  • I used to ask my first child to kiss his little sister when I was pregnant. when she finally came, he was so fond of her that he always play with her and won’t let any stranger come close to his sweet sister.

  • I used to ask my first child to kiss his little sister when I was pregnant. when she finally came, he was so fond of her that he always play with her and won’t let any stranger come close to his sweet sister.
    thanks for sharing, MIM

  • I love this. I used to tell my son that I was preggy then. He would say the baby is his and he is my baby lol. Nd with that no form of jealousy plus e yrs apart

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