When bringing a baby home, getting sibling relationships started off on the right foot can go a long way in helping older brothers and sisters adjust to their new role in the family. Here are some ways to help young children interact and bond with their newborn siblings.
Pay attention to the tone of an older sibling’s first meeting with the baby
When an older sibling comes to meet his younger baby sibling at the hospital, make a big deal of the older child. Tell him hello enthusiastically, and let him know how much you missed him. Make eye contact, give hugs and kisses, and then introduce him to the baby. Filling his heart with love before turning his attention to the baby will help ease any fear and uncertainty he might have.
Consider having a special present just for the older sibling
Since the new baby will likely be receiving gifts, this will help ease an older child’s jealousy. The older child can be your helper, opening the baby’s gifts as well.
Set and explain clear guidelines for physical interactions with the baby
From the beginning, teach your child about washing his hands before coming near the baby, and about where it’s appropriate to touch and kiss the baby, such as the baby’s feet. Explain why it’s important not to touch baby’s mouth, hands, or head. This will set the groundwork for you to remind your child about the rules for keeping baby safe rather than repeating vague admonitions to “be careful.”
Make your older child your special helper
Young children feel important and “big” when they have jobs to do. Things, like tossing dirty diapers in the trash, getting the burp cloth, or squeezing water from a washcloth during bath time, will cause your child to feel included in the new rhythms of the household.
Spend exclusive time with just your older child
One way to keep any resentment from building up is to show your young child how important he still is to you. For example, if the baby is crying and wanting to be picked up but your older child wants you to read a book, see if your partner or another adult can comfort the baby while you deliberately choose to give your attention to the older child. This won’t always be possible, but look for opportunities to show your continued devotion – with action – to older siblings.
Simply keeping in mind how a new older sibling might be feeling and addressing his feelings through talking about them, paying extra attention to your older child, and including him in baby-related activities can imbue a fledgling sibling relationship with love. And that’s the best kind of start.
About the author:
Shifrah lives in Tallahasse, FL with her husband, four children, two cats, and dog. In the midst of mothering and writing, she enjoys reading, lifestyle photography, sewing, going to the beach, and documenting it all in pocket scrapbooks. She drinks her coffee black.