Introducing a new baby into the family can cause chaos with older children, while others take to the role of ‘big’ brother or sister with enthusiasm. Here are some ways parents can help with sibling bonding…
How would you feel if your partner came home and said, ‘I love you so much, I’ve brought another partner home to join our family?’ Feelings of anger, jealously and confusion are bound to follow and as an adult, you would hopefully know how to deal with those emotions and restrain or channel your anger.
Now think about the scenario from your child’s point of view. One minute they are the centre of your world and everything revolves around them, the next, they are being told they need to make way for a brother or sister and that instead of focusing just on them, your time and attention will be divided.
It’s a difficult concept for a child to grasp and one that raises a host of new emotions which your child may not know how to communicate, so instead they will often ‘act out’ their emotions with disruptive or baby-like attention-seeking behaviour.
The reaction of your child to the arrival of a new brother or sister will be as individual as they are and will largely depend upon their temperament and personality.
Some children love the thought of being a big brother or sister and embrace the idea with enthusiasm; others find it more difficult to accept, resulting in troublesome or unruly behaviour.
It’s important to prepare your child for the baby’s arrival as far in advance as possible, the longer they have to get used to the idea, the more accepting they will become of it.
Here are nine ways to help with sibling bonding
- Ensure that your child knows they are as important and loved as they were before, by reassuring them that life ‘for them’ will remain the same, and by handling any disruptive behaviour with a firm but fair response.
- Encourage your child to interact with your baby bump by talking to the baby, singing them nursery rhymes or gently massing your tummy.
- When the baby is kicking, get your child to put their hand on your tummy so they can feel the baby moving – this will make the physical reality of the baby much more real and is a good way to teach your child the importance of being gentle with baby.
- If the hospital allows it, bring your child along to one of your scan appointments so they can see the baby – it’s much easier to connect with something that you can see and feel. If this isn’t possible, show them your scan pictures, pointing out the visible details of the baby and encouraging your child to talk about what the baby may look like.
- When talking about the new baby use phrases like “Our baby” or “Your sister” or “Your baby” so they feel a sense of ownership.
- When it comes to choosing the baby’s name, ask your child for their suggestions and make sure they feel involved in this important decision.
- Presents are a great distraction. When baby arrives, make sure there is a special gift from the new baby to their older sibling.
- It’s quite natural for your child to feel jealous about all the time and attention being spent on the new baby. Make a conscious effort to spend some special ‘one-on-one’ time with them every day and plan activities that are fun and engaging so your child remembers that they are special too.
- Make sure your older child gets to enjoy cuddle time with the baby, don’t create the impression that the baby is to precious or fragile to touch. In a safe environment let your child hold and nurse the baby.