What’s true is that it’s hard to judge just how your oldest child will respond to their new sibling. Temperament, stress, age, and environmental factors turn the situation into a little bit of a crapshoot. However, here are a few ways before and after the birth that you can encourage more harmony at home:
- Look at picture books on pregnancy together so your child can start to get an idea of what is about to change (Check out Robie Harris’ It’s Not the Stork). Do art projects together in which you imagine what the new baby will look like.
- Take your child to hang out with other infants, and look at pictures of newborns in magazines so they can learn what babies are like. Have your child listen to sounds in your stomach and use your navel as a “phone line."
- Break out the baby book and look at your first child’s pictures together.
- Don’t tell your child how they will feel about Baby (“Oh, you’re just going to love her!”). This could set your first-born up to feel conflicted if they’re feeling more threat than love. Let them know Baby will not be much of a playmate at first, but that this will change after many months.
- Toddlers may find the concept of pregnancy too abstract, so don’t be surprised if they seem to not care about this new miracle. You may even wait until your belly is growing in the second trimester to break the news
After the Birth:
- Sometimes, older children regress a little and act like babies again after the first child is born. Don’t be afraid to lean into this (“I have two special babies”), and to “play baby” with them. The more you lean into it, the faster your first-born will “get their fill” and start to feel their age again.
- Spend devoted one-on-one time with your first-born, even if you only have time for 15 minutes per day.
- Encourage friends to pay attention to your firstborn when they come to visit so that they will feel important.
- Allow feelings of jealousy and anger (“It’s hard having a new sibling”). Encourage your first-born to show you their feelings using a baby doll, clay, or crayons as you watch.
- Validate when your child is doing helpful “Older sibling” tasks”.
It may not always be a smooth ride, but if your child feels they are allowed to have their feelings…even if they are downright vicious or babyish… they’ll begin to feel safe again in the family dynamic. Then they’ll have more emotional space to calm the beast and be a cool big sibling.
She loves supporting children and parents in finding connection, and she provides both home-based and office-based services through Mountain Family Home Therapy, LLC.
Contact Jenn at 720-984-1207 or firstname.lastname@example.org
for a free consultation.