The bond between siblings is special – there simply is no other relationship like it. Even if brothers and sisters don’t always get along, siblings are often built-in friends for life. And if you have more than one child, you may already have experience embracing each of your children’s unique traits while supporting each other as a family.
If you are about to have another child, older siblings may feel the change of a new sibling before or after birth. Your older child may feel excited, nervous, and happy all at once – just like you! Talking together with your child is important. You want to hear and respect your child’s feelings, answer any questions he may have, and discuss what it will be like when the baby comes. If your child has been an only child up until now, there are a lot of unknowns for your child. Being a big sister or brother can be a big change as well as an exciting responsibility.
Here are some ways you can help prepare your child to welcome a new baby:
Read books about being an older brother or sister.
Talk about what the baby will do. Basic things like where the baby will sleep and how the baby will eat are all new concepts for your child.
Include your child in preparing your home for the new baby. Have your child pick out the baby’s crib sheets or books for the nursery. Your child will want to be part of welcoming the baby home.
Talk about plans for when your baby is born. Let your older child know who will watch her and when she will get to meet the new baby.
Plan special one-on-one time with just you and your older child. Newborns can take up a lot of your time, which can make your older child feel left out or forgotten. Through simple, one-on-one activities together, you can stay connected and remind your child of the special relationship you share, no matter what changes are taking place.
If you already have multiple children, you may be managing how to support each of them (while also keeping up with the other things in your life). How your children interact with each other will change over time as they grow and evolve. It’s common to hear about sibling rivalry and bickering, but it’s also common to hear about how special siblings are to one other, often forming bonds that are deeper than any friendship your child can form.
Try these tips to build the sibling love between your children while still supporting each child’s individuality:
Celebrate each child’s unique qualities. Allow your children to choose and participate in the activities they enjoy. This may mean your younger child wants to follow in big sister’s footsteps, or it may mean your children are involved in completely different activities. By supporting each of their interests, you are demonstrating that they are each unique and worth celebrating.
Spend quality time with each child. Whether it’s a five-minute walk around the block or reading a book before bed at night, set time aside for you to be alone with each child. The special one-on-one time allows your children to maintain and build that special parent connection with you.
Schedule family time. Play a game, tell stories, plan a special family meal – it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do it together as a family unit. Avoid TV and electronic devices as much as possible to give everyone a chance to connect and bond. These are the memories your children will cherish.
QUICK TIP: Years ahead, when your children will look back at their childhood, they’ll remember the time you spent with them – not the things you bought for them. Reading a book together or talking about your day at the dinner table builds your child’s brain – and wonderful memories – through language and love.