Everyone knows bringing home a baby can be a stressful time for parents, but did you know a new baby can also be stressful for older siblings? Depending on their ages, big siblings can experience a variety of big emotions and difficult behaviors when a new baby comes home. They can include crying and tantrums or sleep disturbances and potty-training regression.
So, What Can Parents Do?
Some behavior issues can be prevented with preparation and including your children in the baby planning. If baby hasn’t arrived yet, recruit your children to help the family get ready. Make it a team effort!
Talk with them about the importance of healthy food, exercise, and rest for mom and their unborn sibling. Make an effort to eat healthy meals together, go on family walks, and spend time resting together.
As your due date approaches, talk with big siblings about what will happen on the day baby is born. Let them know the plan, such as who will be caring for them while you are at the hospital, how long you will be away, and when big siblings will get to meet their new baby brother or sister. Consider showing big siblings pictures of their own birth days and talking about the plans you made for those days as examples.
Big Kids, Small Steps
If you’re open to letting big siblings help care for baby once they come home, it’s a good idea to have big siblings practice with a doll first. Show them how to hold a baby – always while sitting and with adult help!
Depending on their ages, some big siblings can help with diaper changes by retrieving the diapers and wipes for you, or even doing the entire diaper change if they are old enough. Brainstorm other ways big siblings can help, such as reading a book to baby, helping with bath time, or pushing baby in the stroller.
Big siblings usually don’t know what to expect from a newborn, so teach them what it will be like.
- Show your children videos of newborn babies.
- Talk about how small and soft they are, so siblings will need to use clean and gentle hands when touching baby.
- Videos of crying babies will help big siblings understand that babies are sometimes very loud! Remind your children that crying is how babies communicate; it might make us feel scared, nervous, or even angry. These emotions are normal. Try to stay calm and get an adult for help if baby is crying.
How to Help
Even with all your preparation, big siblings will experience a wide array of emotions and behaviors when baby comes home. Although these are normal, they can also be extremely frustrating for parents! Here are a few behaviors adults may see in their children after baby comes home and some ideas for how to combat them.
|Age of Older Siblings||Behaviors They May Exhibit||Strategies Parents Can Utilize|
|Toddlers||Being extra clingy with mom||Provide time for mom and toddler to spend one-on-one time together without the baby.|
|Crying/Tantrums||Provide a safe space for your toddler express their feelings; offer support, comfort and understanding.|
|Sleep or potty-training regression||Understand that this is completely normal. Rather than scolding, give them the attention they need and give praise when they have success.|
|Preschoolers||Being scared of baby’s crying||Remind them that crying is how babies communicate. Help them create a list of reasons baby might cry and what they can do to help.|
|Aggression toward baby||Talk about using gentle hands with baby. Always supervise them when they are around baby and praise appropriate behavior.|
|Wanting baby to play with them||Create a list of activities they can do with baby, such as reading a book to baby, singing for baby, or pushing baby’s stroller with an adult’s help.|
|Elementary Age||Being quiet and withdrawn||Make time for one-on-one time with them, giving them an opportunity to talk about their feelings.|
|Jealousy toward baby||Provide time and space for them to talk about their feelings. Give lots of extra affection and individual attention. Always supervise them when they are around baby.|
|Being clingy with other parent||Spend one-on-one time with them. Recruit other family members to spend one-on-one time as well, like grandparents, aunts, and uncles.|
|Middle School and Older||Anger toward mom||Let them know you are available to listen whenever they want to talk about their feelings. Provide one-on-one time, extra affection, and reassurance.|
|Refusal to help with baby||Respect their boundaries. Let them know their help would be welcome, but you will love them even if they choose not to help.|
|Ignoring baby||Provide opportunities for your family to spend time together. Ask about their own interests and spend time with them, both individually and as a family, doing things that interest them.|