When people think about relationships among siblings, the first word that
often springs to mind is "rivalry." To be honest, that conception isn't
entirely wrong; siblings can wind up competing for their parents'
attention. But it doesn't have to be that way—or only that way.
As a parent, you can set the tone for the way your children relate, not
only to you, but to each other as well. With a little effort, you can
foster relationships that are loving, supportive, and cooperative instead
of competitive. Here’s how to set the stage and prepare your child for the
arrival of a new baby brother or sister.
Tell your child before telling the neighbors.
It's best for your child to hear the news about a new baby from you, rather
than from someone else. Telling your firstborn yourself shows her that you
trust and value her, and also gives you control over how the information is
framed. The best bet is probably to time your conversation for shortly
before you tell your friends. That way, your child won't accidentally spill
the beans before you're ready.
Enjoy your "big boy" or "big girl."
Even if you weren't expecting a second child, it still would be important
to celebrate all the ways your firstborn is growing. Moving from a bottle
to solid food, from diapers to underpants — all of these milestones show
your child is growing up. As children grow, it's important to show them how
proud you are that they're growing into "big boys" or "big girls." This can
prepare them for seeing themselves as "big brothers" or "big sisters" too.
Time your transitions.
Depending upon the age difference between your children, you may find that
one or more of your firstborn's milestones roughly coincides with the
arrival of your new baby. In some cases, you might want to
space your children's transitions. For example, you may not want to move
your older child into a new bedroom and the baby into the "old" room at the
same time, so your firstborn doesn't feel like she's being replaced.
However, other transitions work well together — see if you can move your
firstborn into a "big boy" bed as your baby starts to sleep in a crib. If
the timing works out, it's a great opportunity to show your pride in both children's growth.
Let them help.
As you already know, babies require a lot of work and attention, and there
are many ways in which big brothers and sisters can help. Your firstborn
can talk or sing to the baby, help with bottles or when you change diapers,
and so on. When you find ways to let your firstborn help, you're sending
him several important messages: that you trust him, that he can take an
active role, that part of being a big brother is taking care of a younger
sibling, and that you're all in this together.
One common worry among firstborn children is that a new baby will replace
them in your heart. From time to time (both before and after the baby
arrives), make sure to tell (and show) your firstborn that you'll always
love him just the same.
Set the tone for other adults.
Along with reassuring your firstborn, be careful that other well-meaning
adults don't accidentally undermine your efforts. Share your approach with
close friends and family so that everyone is on the same page.
All of these techniques can be effective, but obviously, you know your
firstborn better than anyone else does. So with some thought (and a little
bit of trial and error), you'll find the strategies that work best for your
family. Whatever methods you use, though, one point remains true: By
putting in a little effort now, you can reap a big payoff later on, and
your children can, too.