Thursday, May 31, 2018
I have read a lot of articles and spoken to many families about preparing siblings for a new baby and have seen them in the early days of adjusting to the larger family. Most of the time I hear how new big brothers and sisters are doing well. But once in a while, there is a sibling who is unhappy.
“Can we give her back now?” “Put him down.” “I need you” are just a few of the things older siblings have said.
The first thing I advise a parent is to listen. Let the child express their feelings. Confirm the changes in routines that will interfere with your child’s usual schedule or plans. Recognize your new role and how it is affecting your relationship with your older child. Are you less available, tired or feeling a bit overwhelmed with new schedules and demands?
Discuss your older child’s narrative with them, reviewing their baby book and describing what care they needed as an infant. Talk about why babies cry and how to meet their needs. If you didn’t make a baby book for them, make one now, or ask if they want to help make a baby book for the new sibling. If they say no, that’s okay.
Some children like to help care for an infant or younger child. If they show an interest, let them get you a diaper or hand you the diaper cream or a wipe. Let them pour measured water into a baby bottle. Let them hold the bottle or baby (with close supervision.)
Set aside alone time with your older child. Pick something, they like to do and do it together. Hire a mother’s helper or babysitter if need be, so you are uninterrupted and can give your undivided attention.
Try to keep your older child’s schedule as much the same as possible. If things need to change, ask them which activity they like doing the most and try to provide that one even if someone else needs to take them. Some children prefer to have more playdates, which gives you more time with the new baby (if in someone else’s home). If in your home, consider having a mother’s helper or babysitter supervise the visit or be available to the new child allowing you to focus on the older sibling and playmate.
As family and friends visit, make sure they don’t just focus on the new baby. In fact, talk to them ahead of time on how they can interact with your older child. If they are bringing a baby gift, perhaps they can bring something for other children in the home as well. Maybe after meeting the new baby, they can do something special with the other sibling(s).
Even with the best of preparation, you will find surprises as you welcome another child into your family. It’s a big deal for you and your other children filled with many changes in schedules, priorities and family dynamics. There will be challenges, but well worth the effort.
Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and adopted persons, as well as trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood, Adoption Professional Advisory Council of HelpUSAdopt and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York. Her blogs and written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including her BLOG and as Head Writer for ADOPTION.NET She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly at EMAIL