Top Ten Tips for Adding a Sibling to Your Family
- Before the new sibling arrives, be proactive. Whether you are
expecting a baby or adopting an infant or older child, your children
can help prepare for the big day. Have them create a
Countdown Calendar or a "Welcome to Our Family" gift. Use pronouns
such as "ours" and not "mine" when referring to the newcomer.
Find age-appropriate ways for the children to help you
prepare the nursery or your home. All these activities help children
connect to the event in a concrete and empathic way, and
promote positive sibling relationships.
- After the new sibling arrives, continue to enlist the aid and cooperation
of your older children. This will help thwart the rivalrous feelings
that may begin to naturally surface. Praise a job well-done.
- Adopt clear rules and set expectations early. Regardless of the ages
of your older children, it is important to develop definitive rules
about who can do what and how, especially when considering the
safety of a newborn. For instance, younger children might hold the
baby only if they are seated on the couch and only if an adult is
present. Older children might be allowed to carry the baby from
room to room but not on the stairs.
- Become a good observer. The same event can be experienced very
differently by each sibling, so make note of how the newcomer is
affecting each of your children. One may need extra hugs and
kisses while another may need more "talking" time with you. Still
another may regress developmentally or express negative feelings.
These are all normal responses. Act accordingly: baby them,
praise them, reflect their feelings and share your own.
- Be positive when conflicts arise. Although it is tempting to say a lot
of "no's" and "don't's," remember to rephrase. Instead of shooing
your older child away for distracting the toddler during a feeding,
invite him or her to sit with you and help. Offer lots of praise.
- Carve out some special time. Schedule one-on-one time with each
of your older children-on a daily basis if possible-so they don't
feel displaced or less loved. Even if a partner is compensating by
spending more time with them, they still need your attention. Just
a few minutes will help them feel connected to you.
- Be flexible. Don't expect to do all the things you were able to do
before the new child arrived. Remember that even simple errands
will now take three times longer than usual.
- Let others help. Even though it may be hard to feel more dependent
than you usually like to feel, ask your spouse, partner, friend,
or family member for assistance with daily chores and activities.
Don't be afraid to let the housework go-save your time and
energy for cuddling and playing with your children!
- Find perspective. Even experienced parents have to prioritize what
can be done in a single day. What HAS to get done to keep the
household running smoothly, and what do you need to do to meet
the emotional needs of your family-and yourself? Note how your
choices affect you and your parenting, and adjust as necessary.
- Rejuvenate. Find a few minutes each day to take care of yourself.
You will need the extra self-control, patience, and energy to deal
with your children's power struggles and meltdowns. Sleep if you
can, do five minutes of deep-breathing, or even take that shower!
Anastasia Galanopoulos, Ph.D., CLC, is a Freedman Center Presenter and the mother of three boys. She was formerly an assistant
professor of human development at Wheelock College.