Preparing Your Firstborn for a Sibling

Preparing Your Firstborn for a Sibling

When people think about relationships among siblings, the first word thatoften springs to mind is "rivalry." To be honest, that conception isn'tentirely 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, notonly to you, but to each other as well. With a little effort, you canfoster relationships that are loving, supportive, and cooperative insteadof competitive. Here’s how to set the stage and prepare your child for thearrival 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, ratherthan from someone else. Telling your firstborn yourself shows her that youtrust and value her, and also gives you control over how the information isframed. The best bet is probably to time your conversation for shortlybefore you tell your friends. That way, your child won't accidentally spillthe 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 importantto celebrate all the ways your firstborn is growing. Moving from a bottleto solid food, from diapers to underpants — all of these milestones showyour child is growing up. As children grow, it's important to show them howproud you are that they're growing into "big boys" or "big girls." This canprepare 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 thatone or more of your firstborn's milestones roughly coincides with thearrival of your new baby. In some cases, you might want tospace your children's transitions. For example, you may not want to moveyour older child into a new bedroom and the baby into the "old" room at thesame time, so your firstborn doesn't feel like she's being replaced.However, other transitions work well together — see if you can move yourfirstborn into a "big boy" bed as your baby starts to sleep in a crib. Ifthe 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 thereare many ways in which big brothers and sisters can help. Your firstborncan 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 sendinghim several important messages: that you trust him, that he can take anactive role, that part of being a big brother is taking care of a youngersibling, and that you're all in this together.

Reassure them. One common worry among firstborn children is that a new baby will replacethem in your heart. From time to time (both before and after the babyarrives), make sure to tell (and show) your firstborn that you'll alwayslove him just the same.

Set the tone for other adults. Along with reassuring your firstborn, be careful that other well-meaningadults don't accidentally undermine your efforts. Share your approach withclose friends and family so that everyone is on the same page.

All of these techniques can be effective, but obviously, you know yourfirstborn better than anyone else does. So with some thought (and a littlebit of trial and error), you'll find the strategies that work best for yourfamily. Whatever methods you use, though, one point remains true: Byputting in a little effort now, you can reap a big payoff later on, andyour children can, too.

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