Worrying how a new baby will affect your first-born is very common. Including your child in the excitement and preparations will help set the stage for sibling harmony.
1. Celebrate the news with your child. Congratulate them on becoming a big sibling. Show them pictures of you and your siblings when you were their age.
2. If rooms need to be rearranged to accommodate the new baby, make the room switch as soon as possible. The further from the birth they make the move, the less they connect the change to the baby and feel displaced.
3. Read “new baby” books repetitively to your child that will help him prepare for a new sibling. Some classic ones are: Arthur’s Baby and The Bernstein Bears’ New Baby.
4. Help your child make a gift for their sibling. Decorating a receiving blanket with fabric markers, making a picture book, or painting a stool are some ideas. Your child will feel a sense of pride sharing the book they made or covering the baby with their special blanket.
5. Prepare a gift from the baby to your child. It can be something little like Pokémon cards or something big like a sand box. Any gift will make your child feel special.
6. Make a birthday cake with your child ahead of time and then freeze it. When they receive the news that their sibling is born, they can frost, decorate, and eat it. What kid doesn’t love a birthday party?
7. Share the exciting news of the birth with your child first before any other family.
8. Make a big deal about your child coming to the hospital to meet his sibling. Keep the visit short and sweet.
9. Think twice before offering to let your child name the baby. Whereas it may seem like a great idea, if we had done this in my house, our kids would be named “Striker” and “Baby Sweet Tree.”
10. Most importantly, make sure to acknowledge your child’s needs. When tired and frazzled and your child asks for something, it is tempting to respond with something like “You are a big kid now and can do that yourself.” Simply acknowledging your child’s needs, by saying “Sure. I’ll help you as soon as I am finished,” will prevent tantrums and set the stage for sibling harmony. When my two-year-old son complained that his baby sister pinched him, instead of saying “she is just a baby, she doesn’t know any better,” I said, “No thank you, it is not nice to pinch” to the baby and was amazed by Drew’s reaction. He seamed appeased and moved on quickly. Today at ages 7 and 8, they are great friends.
Refer to Dr. Liz Vantre’s new book, Ready, Set, Parent: Dr. Moms’ Guide to Parenting, for more detailed information about creating sibling harmony. Chapter 5 covers how to prevent sibling conflicts with children from infancy to older elementary age.
Dr. Elizabeth M. Vantre studied psychology at Wake Forest University and earned her doctorate in School Psychology from Temple University. She is the mother of four children (ages 7, 8, 10 and 12) and is currently employed as a psychologist at The Steward School in Richmond, Virginia. Dr. Vantre has been helping parents find success at home for over fifteen years. She has been employed in a variety of settings including public and private schools, health care facilities, and juvenile detention centers.
Dr. Vantre has recently published the book Ready, Set, Parent: Dr. Moms’ Guide to Parenting with her co-author, fellow psychologist, and good friend, Dr. Samantha Dawson. With a combined 20 years of providing parenting advice both professionally and informally, raising 6 children (Liz has 4, Sam has 2), surviving 14 years of motherhood and enjoying 12 years of friendship, Liz and Sam have enough experience, insight, empathy, practical and proven strategies, real life case examples, and humorous anecdotes to fill a bookshelf.
In addition to speaking engagements regarding her book Ready, Set, Parent, she is also a contributor to the website Soccerparenting.com.