Sibling rivalry is the natural, normal competition between brothers and sisters for their parents love and affection and it exists in every family to some degree. There are strategies that you can do to ease the pain of having a “replacement” in the family. The following information may help your family experience a smoother transition:
Before the New Baby Arrives:
· Encourage your child to share your pregnancy with you by talking to the baby, visiting the doctor and feeling the baby move. Take sibling to the ultrasound visit.
· Explain who will care for your child while you are giving birth.
· Read books or watch videos with your child, about pregnancy, giving birth and having a new baby in the family.
· Arrange a caregiver and explain to your child who will care for them while you are giving birth.
· Make or buy a “welcome” present for the sibling to give to the new baby.
· Visit a friend with a new baby. If possible, watch breastfeeding.
· Avoid fostering unrealistic expectations about a new playmate.
· Put a picture of yourself in the sibling’s room.
· Speak of the baby as “ours”.
· Involve sibling in choices such as baby clothes, decorating, etc.
· Show pictures and video of the sibling as a baby.
· Change in routine should be done well before baby arrives: bed changes, baby clothes, bedtime changes, Dad takes some duties over, etc.
During Hospital Stay or Birth:
· Make frequent calls to your child.
· Have a gift from the new baby to your child.
· Let the first visit at the hospital be “family” only.
· Have a camera ready for the child to take pictures.
· Have a framed picture of the sibling on the bedside table.
· Greet your child without the baby in your arms.
· Bonding tip: Put your child’s finger in baby’s palm.
· Remember your child is anxious to see you, not the baby.
· Let child hold baby.
At Home After The Birth:
· Discourage visitors for the first few days if possible.
· Let your child come with Daddy to pick up Mom and baby at hospital.
· Allow your child to take part in baby’s care, according to their capabilities.
· Have a supply of wrapped gifts to give to your child when friends bring baby gifts.
· Talk about the sibling’s accomplishments too.
· Don’t force positive interaction. Sibling may feel indifferent or negative towards baby.
· Older children can assist in making birth announcements or fill them out.
· Encourage children to phone relatives and share the news first.
· Mom and Dad should spend time alone with each sibling, especially Mom.
· Give extra hugs, cuddles, smiles, patience and understanding.
· If you are stressed, get support rather then take it out on the sibling.
· Don’t expect “older child” behaviour from the sibling. Eg: waiting, crossing roads, etc.
· Avoid getting a new pet.
· Keep on going to older child’s activities as much as possible.
· Have a special basket of books, games, or toys to play with sibling, while nursing baby.
· Don’t blame lack of time on baby. Use any other reason.
· Emphasize positives such as “Baby can’t have juice, only Big kids get juice!” Point out older child can go to park, stay up later, etc.
· Spend time on the floor to increase your accessibility to your toddler while holding and feeding the baby.
· Ask child what they like/don’t like about the new baby. Accept all responses.
· Ask child to draw a picture of how he/she feels about the new baby.
· Give the sibling a baby doll to talk to and practice caring for.
· Acknowledge the challenges, “Mommy sure spends a lot of time feeding the baby, eh?”
· Be patient and reassure your child you will always love him/her, if he/she shows signs of jealousy, regression, or aggression.
· Acknowledge the child’s feelings. You don’t have to agree with them, in order to accept and validate them.
Copyright 2001 Judy Arnall May not be reproduced without permission.