Bringing a new baby home is an exciting time for your family. Seeing your eldest child interact with their new baby brother or sister will make your heart melt. But if your firstborn starts acting out, acting negatively towards the baby or vying for your attention it can be overwhelming to know what to do and say.
Here are some tips for managing the transition with siblings to help them feel loved and supported through the process…
1. Connection in the lead-up (and after)
We know we love our kids and often tell them we love them daily, but it is interesting to know that it is more effective for toddlers, to show them in ways that are more physical than verbal. Because of the way they process information, showing them is more powerful than telling.
When we increase these connections before and after a new baby, our children don’t need to seek connection with us as much as they feel safe and secure in our love for them.
2. Play (and keep it light)
Don’t overdo the preparation; becoming an older sibling is more of a ‘learn-on-the-job’ role.
Generally in the lead up to a new baby arriving, parents start preparing their older child by talking about the baby or reading books about becoming a big brother/sister. Which is great – if your child is interested.
If they are not, play is actually the best way to bring up the subject. Use a doll or other toys to play, without teaching. Be cool and follow your child’s lead around how much talking you do in the lead-up.
3. Allowing our toddler to lead the first meeting
When planning the first introduction the thing to keep in mind is our toddler feeling connected to their parents first, and the baby second. When we get this right the relationship of the toddler and baby unfolds, as it should.
After being separated from mum and dad while the baby was born, many toddlers will need to reconnect with their parents before being very interested in the baby. This allows them to feel connected, and after that, they will be much more interested in the baby.
Some children will be absolutely bursting to meet their new sibling and often, once they have examined tiny fingers and toes they may look up and seek to connect with mum and dad. It helps to be ready for this look and meet it with a big “I have missed you so much, I am so happy to be home with you!”
4. Present not perfect
It is impossible to meet all of our kids’ needs all of the time. Often we will be feeding or changing a nappy and our toddler will need to wait. Sometimes we are dealing with a scraped knee so the baby will need to wait for a cuddle or a feed.
This is a real juggle and most of us need reminding that good enough (not perfect) parenting is what our kids really need.
No one knows your child better than you, so follow your instincts and know you do have everything within you to meet their needs through this beautiful transition that is welcoming a new baby to the family.