Parenting

Sibling Struggles – Preparing Your Child for the New Arrival

[Image - Ryan McGuire]
Written by Sam Skelding

Bringing another life into the world presents a number of unique challenges for parents. 

Perhaps just as important as making room and setting aside extra finances, is preparing your first-born for the family’s new arrival. 

When expecting a sibling, it’s crucial that your little one knows they aren’t going to be replaced. Most psychologists agree that children will initially feel a sense of resentment towards the whole idea, in fear of being put in second place.

Remember that they don’t have the vocabulary of an adult, so they could express their insecurity by acting up – displaying behaviour that could be considered “attention-seeking” or extreme. So, it’s vital you get a dialogue going early on!

This isn’t to say that all children will find the transition difficult or see it as a competition for their parents love, they are all individuals and some will embrace the idea of having a new family member. For most kids though, the sudden upheaval and focus on the new baby can be tough to take.

As a dad, there are plenty of things you can do to make the transition easier for your first-born and if anything, get them excited about the new arrival.

First steps

As you’ll know from first time around, preparing your home for a new baby can take a lot of time and effort. Involving your child in the process will reinforce that they are an important part of this change and have a voice. Let them help out with decorating the baby’s room, or with choosing clothes.

When talking to your kids, referring to the new baby as “your little brother” or “your little sister” (rather than “the baby”) lets your child feel way more involved in what’s happening.

Mentoring

Talking to your kids about how influential they can be in their new little brother or sister’s life is a great way of showing them that being an elder sibling is a special thing. Remind them of how they will be able to teach them things and will be gaining a brand new playmate.

By extension, make them feel like part of the team by teaching them to care for the new baby. Show them how to hold their brother of sister, feed them or just push the pram.

Ignorance isn’t bliss

Making sure you tell your child the good news first, before other family members, stops them feeling left out. If uncle pops over and asks his favourite niece if she’s looking forward to having a baby brother, before you’ve told her, she may end up feeling confused and as though she wasn’t even considered in the change.

Be prepared to answer questions. Encouraging their curiosity will make them feel more secure and ready for the change. The more they understand the situation, the better. Feeling as though the change is a big mystery will only make them feel anxious – try visiting friends with babies to help them get a feel for having a young baby around.

Back to school

Look in your local library or online for books which offer up-to-date tips and tricks to help you get your first-born excited about the new arrival. You can also take them to classes, so they can ask questions and get words of encouragement and positive stories from experienced parents.  

Remember, young children are totally reliant on their mum and dad, and bringing another person into the family dynamic can easily be seen as a threat. However, by keeping them in the loop and making them as much a part of the journey as possible, they’ll soon be just as excited as you about welcoming a new member to the clan! 

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