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The Birth of a New Sibling – What to Do?

Nothing unsettles the lives of children quite like the birth of a sibling: special event for parents = profound disruption of familial bliss for children. Some children take it in stride, but the majority may not. Having a sibling forces children to share the wealth in an important and healthy adaptation to living in the real world. Here are a few ideas about how to ease the pain, and promote the joy:

  • ‘Me, myself and I’ – The mantra of toddler-hood reminds us that 18 to 24 months finds most kids falling short of being able to participate in the care of a younger sibling. They have just begun to take care of their own business, so looking after someone else’s (with whom you have to share mom and dad) is annoying to say the least.
  • By 48 months: Children are able to feel some ownership of a new baby – rocking, diapering, comforting, and playing with a baby are possible, if not always high on their list of fun things to do. They own enough familial territory by now that they can afford to share.
  • A younger sibling often adores an older sibling. Teach your older one (don’t ignore the boys) to be tender and gentle when holding or feeding the baby. This is great training for future intimacy and competent parenting.
  • Preserve time alone with your older children several times a week. They may no longer be the ‘only,’ but they are the still the ‘first,’ and certain privileges pertain, along with new responsibilities!
  • Don’t underestimate how your own experience as a sibling -in a particular birth order – affects your perception of your children’s experience. You may be off by a mile in your evaluation of your child’s jealousy of a new baby if you are the baby in your own family, or the first-born.Keep the dialogue open with your children about the shape of their sibling relationships and you will learn a lot.