SolveYourProblem Article Series: Pregnancy
Pregnancy: Everything You Need To Know



Sibling Rivalry When a New Baby is on the Way

First-born children may not be as excited as everyone else about the impending new addition. In fact, they find the idea completely disruptive to their world. This is normal, especially for young children under 6 years old. The younger the children are, the more likely they have been used to being at home with mom and dad and had sole attention. Once children begin to go to school, they have gained more independence and have more friends. It seems to be easier on them. Many children with a new sibling may go back to regressive baby-like behavior and this not an ideal time to be teaching a new skill, such as potty training. It is common for them to get jealous and feel like there is not enough attention paid to them. They might even try acting like a baby to get more attention. There are many ways to include and prepare siblings to the idea of a new baby.

Once you have passed that critical first trimester and begin to show, it is now time to tell the kids you are expecting. Some people choose to tell the kids when they get a positive home pregnancy test. This may not be the most optimum idea. Miscarriage is always a risk at first. To a child who is first told that a baby is coming and then to hear the baby went away can be extremely confusing and possibly traumatizing. It might make the child very upset the next time you announce that you are expecting. Once the news is out, it might help to get an age appropriate book about how are babies made to help answer those questions. Most children are more concerned how the baby got there and how it is getting out than the actual baby.

Involve the other kids in decorating and preparing the nursery. Ask what they think the new baby would like and try to allow them to pick things out. Let them shop for baby clothes and baby items and explain how much babies need because they are too small to do anything for themselves. Start throwing hints now that babies require a lot of attention so they wonít be surprised when the baby arrives. Try not to disrupt your other childrenís routines. They need to feel that some of the things they expect and know will stay the same. If they feel the baby is taking everything away they could get very resentful, and even strike out if very young. Talk about the pregnancy a lot to keep reminding them it is real, children take a while to grasp things that arenít happening directly to their bodies.

Here are some basic tips that parents have used to help stop and prevent sibling rivalry:

  • Don't compare kids.
  • Review baby pictures of the older child to put things in perspective and remind/point out that in fact he/she was cared for in just the same way when he/she was born.
  • If possible, avoid big changes in family life, such as moving or changing caregivers, around the birth of a new baby - such events can be even more overwhelming. It can also cause the sibling to associate a negative experience or change with the new baby.
  • Take this opportunity to discuss the birds and the bees - use books and experts at the hospital for help with this
  • Look for opportunities in which the sibling can be a participant rather than a competitor in the birth, keep them active with planning.
  • Monitor the gift giving, suggest that friends and family bring the baby and sibling(s) presents or even have people give time - take the sibling for a separate outing.

For the parent to be:

  • Be prepared. But keep in mind the age of the child. For example, 9 months is a very long time in the life of a 4-year-old. Try postponing the discussion until mother is showing - there will be plenty of time to prepare, use a calendar to mark the coming delivery, or discuss the birth in connection to an established point in time such as in the summer, when school is over, around Christmas.
  • Keep everyone involved according to interest - bring the soon to be sibling with you to doctor visits, show pictures of a sonogram.
  • Be concrete about life with a new infant - babies aren't born playmates, they don't walk, talk, play ball, they cry, sleep, and eat for quite some time.
  • Check with your hospital to see if they have a sibling preparation program
  • Don't go overboard. The birth of a new baby is a momentous occasion but children can be bored by constant talk and planning. The siblings to be would prefer their parents were interested in the current events in their lives.

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