Parenting

Big Brother – Getting Older Siblings to Help Out

[Image - Giu Vicente]
Written by Sam Skelding

Raising a newborn can be exhausting, but help may be closer to home than you think.

If you already have children, they can easily get involved in looking after their new little brother or sister. Not only taking some of the weight off your shoulders, but building a unique bond and having lots of fun in the process. Giving an older child more responsibility can also help to remove any negative feelings they might have towards the new arrival.

Julie Tabor Thompson, inventor of the PullyPalz toy, has shared six great tips on how to get older siblings involved in caring for a newborn:

Hand-Me-Downs

This is a great way for older children to bond with their younger sibling, giving mum and dad some much-needed time to rest. At young ages, children seem to grow out of their baby toys by the minute, so if your older child is somewhat close in age to your infant, have them pass on their old toys, or save them until your next newborn comes along.

Tell your toddler – who may have outgrown their baby toys by now – to gift them to their younger sibling and even play together. Explain how happy this will make their little brother or sister and that they will one day look up to them.

Rewards

Many siblings naturally wish to help out and are excited when there is a newborn in the house, but you can also entice toddlers to help out by rewarding them: an extra 30 minutes of TV, a cookie after dinner, going to see a movie, another 15 minutes added on before bedtime, etc.

Picking up dummies, changing nappies, getting clothes ready for changing time, and many other small tasks are a great way for your other child to feel involved. It may not seem like much, but with a newborn on your hands, every bit of help counts.

Read to the baby

If your older sibling is in primary school, they can practice their reading skills on the baby. Take your older child to the bookstore and purchase their favourite book; this will make them feel appreciated, especially with all the attention the newborn is getting.

Before naptime, they can help the baby fall asleep with a fun story. This not only aids your baby with drifting off, but lets the older sibling get quality reading time so you can take another breather – two birds with one stone!

Let them hold the baby

Holding a newborn baby is a wonderful experience for anyone. With supervision, allow your older child to rock or burp the baby once in a while on their lap. This is the perfect way to teach older siblings how fragile a newborn is and that they need a lot of care; the same care that they were once given.

Play grown-up

Most kids don’t like to be treated their age. Make them feel more grown up by allowing them to do chores around the house and turning it into a game!

The chores will vary depending on the age of your child, but you can have them help prepare dinner, take out the rubbish, draw a bath for the baby, and help sort the washing. Be sure to play along with your youngster, showing them that if they act with responsibility they will be treated a certain way.

Know when some responsibility is too much

You don’t want your older child to begin seeing their new brother or sister as a burden, so it’s important to know how much responsibility is too much – which is different with every child.

Helping to raise the baby should develop the bond between siblings from a young age. Just try to make helping out with the baby enjoyable and show that you really appreciate their assistance. 

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