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Coping with a New Sibling

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 19 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Baby Sibling Brother Sister Child

So you're having a new baby, congratulations! A new member of the family should be an exciting time, but for other children, especially toddlers, the news can come as a bit of a shock. If you're worried about how to get over the issue of a new sibling, here's some advice that might help.

The arrival of a new baby in the family can be especially tricky for toddlers to get used to. Toddlers typically think they're centre of the universe and deserve all your attention, so having to share it can be hard. They may feel jealous, but not completely understand their feelings at this stage, so may react in an out of character way. Typical reactions include:

  • Bad behaviour and being naughty
  • Attention-seeking behaviour
  • Refusing to do what they're told
  • Regression (not wanting to use their potty or becoming more baby-ish again).
  • Trying to get your attention when you're busy with the baby
If they really don't like the baby, they may even try a few prods or pinches, but usually nothing too hard, but it's best to keep a close eye on them just in case.

Useful Preparation

One way of minimising these issues, and perhaps avoiding them altogether, is to prepare your toddler in advance. Toddlers easily forget, so don't tell them months in advance, but rather a month before the baby is due. Be honest and direct. Let them feel your tummy and explain that the new baby will soon be arriving. If the idea is hard to grasp, try borrowing some books from the library that deal with new sibling issues. There are lots of great options out there and can help with understanding what a new baby means and how it will affect them.

It's also important to explain what will happen at home when the baby arrives and let your toddler know that they're loved. Getting them involved in the preparation, for example by making simple decisions about the nursery, what colour the walls should be or what colour blanket they'd like, is a good move.

If your toddler's routine will be changing slightly, then it helps to implement the changes slowly and in advance, so they've got time to get used to them. Before you go into labour, have another chat and explain what's going to happen and that you'll be away at the hospital for a day or so.

Once the baby is born, bringing your toddler into the hospital to see the new baby is a good way of familiarising them. Make sure it's a special time for them too and that they get to share everything.

When Everyone's Back At Home

When your new baby is back at home with the rest of the family, continue to look out for your toddler and ensure they feel a part of everything. You can do this by involving your toddler in looking after their new baby brother or sister. Hopefully they'll be enthusiastic and help with things like fetching nappies, changing nappies, choosing which clothes to wear and other activities.

It's also important to provide as much toddler time as possible, for example through playing with them, and ensure they're your main focus of attention for awhile. Although it may run smoothly for some people, it's natural for this age group to feel jealous, so don't worry if you get the occasional outburst. It may take some getting used to, but if you're open and honest, don't treat your toddler differently, don't change their routine suddenly and involve them as much as possible in looking after the new baby, things should go well.

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