Baby tips and advice for parents expecting a new addition frequently center on baby proofing and safety. Few tips for parents explain how to help turn a previously happy but increasingly sullen future big sibling into an enthusiastic welcoming committee.
Understand the Nature of Sibling Rivalry
The University of Michigan explains that sibling rivalry already occurs before the birth of another child. Consider that — prior to the expected arrival — the soon-to-be big brother or sister was fawned over and her or his every move got chronicled. Now, more attention is given to readying the nursery and oohing and aahing over cute little baby clothes.
Tip: As baby tips abound for readying mom and dad to be, there is less attention paid to the feelings of hope and fear that the other children may experience (to varying degrees). Do not take a cookie cutter approach to dealing with sibling rivalry; instead, take the time and make the effort to draw out each child individually to discover what the issues are.
Must-know Advice for Parents: Inclusion Trumps Fear
Mom’s body is changing and so is the dynamic of the household. While parents are wise to adopt a ‘need to know’ attitude with respect to situations that could be stressful to children, the arrival of a sibling does not fall under this heading. As soon as the critical first trimester has passed, explain the future arrival of the baby to the child and include her in planning and getting things ready.
Tip: It is immaterial if the child understands everything you are trying to communicate; what matters is that you are communicating.
Take a Class to Learn How to Prepare for a Baby – with the Sibling
Plenty of hospitals now offer big sibling classes for the future big brothers and sisters. Although vague with respect to the nuts and bolts of delivery and infant care, they highlight and underscore the important position the big sibling now takes on in the household.
Tip: Be sure to sign up with the child for this class; it will make the change in the child’s familial status “official.”
Babies Give Gifts! (as do adults)
When the big day arrives, be sure to have a big present delivered to the hospital. When the older child visits you to also meet the baby sibling for the first time, give the child a chance to meet the infant. Thereafter, present the child with the gift, which should be clearly marked as having come from the new baby.
Toddlers in particular will be a lot more accepting of a sibling whom they perceive to be a giver (of toys) rather than a taker (of parental affection). For adults who may visit and bring gifts to the hospital, request that they include the sibling in the gift-giving.
Tip: Pre-plan ahead for the few uncles and aunts who do not get the message; have some already wrapped presents ready to go and slide in.
Remember: all the baby tips you read right now may teach you how to prepare for a baby, but if you fail to also get the older sibling ready, you are only doing the job halfway.
University of Michigan: “New Baby Sibling”