Preparing for the birth of a new sibling
Your first-born has been the centre of your attention for many months, or years, so when you drop a sibling into the equation, it’s no surprise there can be conflict.
Sibling rivalry can start right after the birth of the second child and usually continues throughout childhood.
The children may be of different sex, are probably of different ages and temperaments and they have the share the person or two people they most want for themselves.
Dr Mark Feinberg, lead investigator of Penn State University’s Siblings Are Special Project, says humans are wired to engage in sibling rivalry from a very young age because to survive babies need to be cared for.
And when there are multiple children around there’s competition for resources such as love, attention, support, food and protection. While we may have access to plenty of essentials now, it’s still a natural instinct.
Goodstart Early Learning’s Senior Child and Family Practitioner Alma-Jane O’Donnell says sibling rivalry is a natural part of childhood but there are some tools parents can use
to prepare children for a new arrival.
- Always include children in conversations using the phrase “when baby comes home WE can . . . “rather than “when baby comes mum and dad”.
- It’s a good idea to let your child know what role he or she will play in the new baby’s life. Let them know they will be his or her sister or brother. However, it is important not to put too many expectations on child such as: “you are going to be the big brother/sister soon, you will need to look after your new sibling”. When new baby comes sometimes the older child does not want to be the “big one”, they often still want to be your little baby.
- When the new baby comes homes, your older children will seem so much bigger but they are still young and will still experience all sorts of big emotions when new baby comes home. They will still need your help to understand why.
- Try setting aside 20 minutes once a day as one-on-one time with your child to talk through those big emotions. Making this at a regular time can help because a predictable routine is important when life has big changes.
- Be prepared. Some children may regress in developmental areas when new siblings arrive – such as toilet training or sleeping through the night. It’s best to be patient be aware that things will eventually be better.
Some children will be super excited about the arrival of a little sister or brother but others will become anxious as the arrival date draws closer.
To help the process, enjoy reading a few books with them to help them get more comfortable with the idea.
Best books for children about to become a big sister or brother
- What to Expect When the New Baby Comes Home, Heidi Murkuff.
- What Sisters Do Best/What Brothers Do Best, Laura Numeroff.
- I’m Having Twins by Paris Morris (written when she was just nine years old and based on her own experience with her siblings!)
- There’s a House Inside My Mummy, Giles Andreae and Vanessa Cabban.
- There’s Going To Be a Baby, John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury.