Having a new baby brings about its own challenges. When you’re bringing home a new baby to the house with other children, it is even more challenging. There are many ways you can work to help siblings adjust to a new baby.
With six children, we’ve brought home five babies to other siblings. Each one has had its own set of challenges. However with a little coaching, your children can adjust and even enjoy the new addition.
Today I wanted to share with you some ideas on how you can encourage a positive transition for siblings to adjust to the new baby that’s been welcomed into your home.
Discuss the Changes
First things first…have a talk with your child about the new baby long before you give birth. This will help siblings get prepared for the idea that a new child will be in the home. Many children thrive on routine, preparing them for the real changes that occur when you have a new baby in the home will help them know what to expect. Allow your child to ask questions and engage in a positive conversation surrounding the idea of sharing their home with a new baby.
Involve them as much as possible
Since we homeschool our children, I was able to plan ahead and allow them to tag along on doctor visits. For our last two pregnancies, they were able to attend the anatomy scan at 20 weeks, even though we didn’t find out the sex of either one. Then, for each visit, I brought along one child who could come with me. We made a mini-day of it by doing something special together – lunch, ice cream, etc. – either before or after the appointment. This gave me time to spend one-on-one with them and let them know that even though a new baby was about to enter our family and change was coming, they were still just as important.
Another way we involved our children was asking them what names they liked. With our fifth and sixth babies, which were both surprises, we had no idea what names to choose. While we had names we liked, we had fun asking the kids what they would name a new brother or sister.
Give Siblings “Jobs”
Nothing makes an older sibling feel appreciated more than having some sort of job to do when the new baby arrives. Find small tasks that your other child can do as a means to help out during the adjustment period of having a new baby in the home. Siblings could help in many ways with small tasks. You could have your other children alternate baby feeding (or burping if you breastfeed) or entertain the new baby while you’re doing something else. You could assign your other children jobs that alleviate some tasks from your plate.
Some of the jobs our children do are burping, changing diapers, holding/cuddling, entertaining them while Mom/Dad are busy (for short periods when the baby is young) and playing with them as they get older. We try to allow each sibling to spend time (even a little) with the new baby so they learn to play and enjoy each other.
Read Stories Together
Reading books together can start right from the moment your new baby arrives in the home. Have the older child pick out some favorite books and enjoy a story time every day as they read to the new baby. This will delight your child to feel as if they’re helping the new baby “learn to read” and in turn, it will encourage your older child to get some reading minutes completed. If you don’t have any baby or younger children books on hand, consider picking some up at the local library.
This was one of my kids’ favorite parts of having younger siblings. Our second child was just learning to read when I was pregnant with baby #5 and we encouraged him by reminding him how much he could read to the new baby when it arrived. He was thrilled and worked so hard to learn to read, that he mastered reading in less than 2 months! (A sneaky win-win for this homeschool mom!)
Make Room for Alone Time
Lastly, when it comes to having a new baby in the home you’ll be very busy with all of the demands a newborn has. While it may seem impossible, you should set aside some time to spend alone with your other child(ren). This is especially important if you only have one other child in the home. The transition from only child to sharing their parents with a new baby is even harder on a child who’s been used to living without siblings for a period of time.
One fun and easy way to do this is to set aside a special evening/night with the older sibling. We would allow our oldest to stay up later than the others and choose either a movie or a game to play with just us. This made him feel special as the oldest and gave us time to enjoy him and laugh together.
There are many small gestures and things you can do to ensure that siblings are positively adjusting to the new baby. These have worked for us, but I’d love to know what’s worked for you!