Adjusting to a New Sibling

How to help the Big Brother or Big Sister Welcome their Sibling Home

When my daughter was born, my now “middle child" was not happy. I sat on the couch on the first day we were home from the hospital and asked him to come sit with me and cuddle. His little four year old eyes looked at me holding his new sister and he said, “Not until you put that thing away." It would take him 6 months to let his sister sit on his lap. 

Some siblings just simply have a rough time adjusting to the attention shifting a bit in the house. Here’s some tips from Kelly Corbitt, LCSW, an expert in child and family practice, about how to help the transition:

  • Give the Kids a Heads Up
    • Help your child be as prepared as possible. While it’s virtually impossible to know exactly what bringing a new baby home will be like, there are some factors that can be communicated to an older child to help give them a “heads up" to aspects of their life which may change when their new sibling arrives. For instance, if your older child is expecting an instant playmate in the new baby, it can be helpful to let them know that the baby will mostly be eating, sleeping and crying…but playing will come soon! Or, if there are room changes or shifts to your older child’s physical space that will need to happen once the new baby arrives, doing this before bringing the baby home can be helpful in aiding in the transition for your older child. 
  • Teach your older child how to safely interact with the baby.
    • Depending on the age of your older child, it’s important to remind them of how necessary it is to be gentle with a new baby. While we shouldn’t force an older sibling to get help with the baby, if they express interest, allowing them to get involved with tasks that are age appropriate for them can be a great way for the older child to feel included. 
  • Hold space for their feelings.
    • Your older child is likely to experience big feelings during this time of transition. Be accepting of changes in behaviors, including regressive behaviors, from your older child. These are not likely to last very long. Demonstrate curiosity and interest in how they are feeling during this adjustment and express your understanding that this is a big change and can feel confusing and even upsetting at times. 
  • Designate special time for just you and your older child.
    • To the extent that you are able, scheduling special, baby-free one on one time with your older child can be very helpful in continuing to connect with them during this time of transition. They are likely to be feeling the pull of your attention to the needs of the baby and having a reassurance that you still enjoy spending time with them can go a long way as they adjust.

Expert information provided by: Kelly Corbitt, LCSW, E-RYT 200, RPYT

Give InKind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We have an affiliate relationship with many of the advertisers on our site, and may receive a commission from any products purchased from links in this article. See Terms & Conditions.

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