The arrival of a new sibling can be difficult for children of any age, but especially so for toddlers and preschoolers. At this young age they are not able to identify or express their emotions with words.
Therefore, many children will begin to act out or return to behaviors that were more appropriate when they were younger. This is called regression. Some children will want to wear diapers again, start drinking from a bottle, or behave as though they are unable to do things. Also, you may notice a change in eating and sleeping habits. The older child is seeking reassurance that he is still important to you and not being replaced. You can offset some of these typical behaviors by making sure big brother or sister is included in activities that involve the anticipated arrival of the baby and also those after birth.
Emotionally, your child may be clingy, frustrate easily, and could become aggressive towards others and the new baby. While all of these behaviors are common they can be troubling for parents. Talk with your firstborn about his feelings and let him know that you understand, but hitting, biting, etc. will not be tolerated. Following is a list of suggestions to help big brother or sister adjust to the arrival of a new family member.
Before the Baby Arrives:
- Reassure your older child that he will always be your ’first’ baby
and that you have enough love in your heart for each child.
- Show your firstborn his baby photos and remind him that he was once a baby.
- Read books about newborns together and talk about what babies can and can’t do.
- Be open and honest about the changes that will take place once the new baby comes home.
- Allow your child to put his hand on your abdomen to feel the baby move.
- Give your child a baby doll to pretend and practice caring for.
- Let your child help you get things ready for the new baby.
- Remember not to call the baby a “boy” or “girl” until you know the gender. Your older child could be very disappointed if the baby is not what he expected.
After the Baby Arrives:
- Purchase a shirt for your older child that says, “I’m a Big Brother/Sister!!”
- Allow the sibling to come visit at the hospital.
- Allow your older child to hold the baby as often as possible if appropriate and help whenever he can.
- Make an effort to spend one on one time together.
- Talk about all the grown-up things he can do that the baby cannot.
- Make sure big brother/sister gets in on picture-taking fun. Take photos of him with the baby and alone also.
- Encourage your child to talk with you about his feelings. Tell him that it is normal to wish sometimes that it was like it used to be ‘before the baby.’ Reassure him of your love and concern.