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Welcoming a new baby? Ways to help your older child adjust

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If it takes a village to raise a child, raising a child and their sibling(s) may require a metropolis. Luckily, you can practice some simple strategies and techniques to help siblings get along as they each grow independently!

Welcoming a new baby? Congratulations! Here are some ways to help your older child adjust.

Some children are very excited about a new baby and are very gentle. For others, the arrival of a new baby is stressful and can feel like a loss of attention. Here are some tips to help with the transition.

  • Involve the older sibling  in the baby’s care, with your supervision. Allow him to hold the baby with you sitting right next to him. Let your older child help with diapering.
  • Ask your child to show visitors the baby’s room.
  • Giving your older child the opportunity to help is great, like asking him to get a blanket, a diaper, or a pacifier, but make sure to avoid asking him to run too many baby errands.
  • Set aside a special time every day just for the older child and use that time to hold, hug, and love just him.
  • Expect some “acting out” behavior while your older child adjusts to the new baby. Allow him to talk about his feelings, and offer reassurance that he is loved.  
  • Don’t punish your child for behavior that shows frustration. Let him know you understand having a new baby is frustrating, but everyone will adjust to the change over time.
  • Rather than scolding your older child, acknowledge his feelings: “It seems like you’re feeling sad right now. Do you want a hug or a story?” Or “It’s hard when you want me to do something and I need to help the baby.”

It can be hard bringing a new baby into the family. Families First Support Line is available to listen, as well as to help you find solutions. Call them at 877-695-7996 anytime!

If you have a toddler and an older sibling, here are some ideas to keep your older child engaged.

Toddlers need lots of help to handle conflicts. Help your older child recognize that she was little once and had to learn all these things, too. She can help teach her younger sibling.

  • If your older child has a skill she’s proud of, let her show off to you. Pay attention to her and offer lots of praise and encouragement.
  • Toddlers like to imitate their older siblings, and toddlers learn by doing things they see their big sisters or brothers do. Invite your older child to be part of the “teaching team.”
  • Bring me a discovery. Ask your older child to find a rock, a bug or a flower and bring it to you. Say things like, “My goodness, you always find interesting rocks when you’re outside. You are such a good explorer!”
  • Draw a picture for me. Children love to draw and paint. Show interest and comment on her efforts. Say things like, “Look at all that blue! That’s so beautiful. Can I hang it by my desk?”

A little healthy competition is normal, but if you’ve got a sibling rivalry on your hands, take a look at these suggestions to calm the waters.

  1. The best thing a parent can do is to acknowledge sibling conflicts and pay attention (so that no one gets hurt), give them time and space to try and work it out, then help them resolve the problem if they are not able to solve it themselves.
  2. Try to help your children develop skills to work out conflicts on their own. Teach them how to compromise, respect one another, and divide things fairly.
  3. When parents jump into sibling arguments, they often protect and defend one child (usually the younger sibling). This may make the conflict worse, because the older child resents the younger, and the younger may feel that she can get away with more since the parent is “on her side.”

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