Having a second child (or any subsequent children) has its own set of unknowns: not only do you have to focus on your newborn, but you also need to consider how an older child emotionally handles a new sibling coming into their life. With this in mind, we are sharing six tips that will ensure a smooth and emotionally sound transition when bringing a new baby home to their sibling.
Written by: Hayley Hubbard & Jessica Diamond, MPH, RDN
Having a new baby brings about a lot of unknowns, but having a second child (or any subsequent children) has its own set of unknowns: not only do you have to focus on your newborn, but you also need to consider how an older child emotionally handles a new sibling coming into their life. With this in mind, we are sharing six tips that will ensure a smooth and emotionally sound transition when bringing a new baby home to their sibling.
In addition to acting out, maybe your child is nudging your belly away from them, wanting to be held all the time, or never wanting to be held when your belly gets in the way. This is all completely normal and presents an amazing opportunity for you to help them process the feelings that come along with being a big sibling. Without a doubt, your child wants to be the best big sibling ever, but they also want to know that you will still have enough love for them once their sibling arrives.
So, as much as we want to meet those negative emotions with something like, “Come on, you’re going to love your little sister or brother!”, it’s actually better to confront the feelings they are having head on. When your child is expressing a negative emotion about a new sibling, say something like, “You must be scared to have a new sibling and worried I’m not going to have enough love for you. I promise, I will always have enough love for you.” Addressing these feelings without dismissing them will make your child feel loved and understood and will help them process any feelings that come up once they realize they don’t have you all to themselves anymore.
One way to prepare your toddler or child for the new baby, especially if they are starting to show signs of regressive behavior, is to engage them in some imaginative play. Say something like, “Oh, I see you’re pretending to be a baby. Can I change your diaper?” As best you can, try not to say that big kids don’t wear diapers, and instead lean into the opportunity to play with them. Play is very therapeutic, and pretending they are a baby helps them explore, better understand, and gain control over their feelings around this major life adjustment. It also means they will get more nurturing from you, which will help them process their feelings about the new sibling in the moment and keep their love tank full.
For more ideas, make sure to listen to our podcast episode, Siblings: Dynamics, Rivalry, and Preparing for a New Sibling with Alison LaTona, an MFT and sibling expert. We also love the book I’m a Big Sister and I’m a Big Brother for introducing a new baby into the family.