Many families have more than one child, and if you ask me, they are amazing! I just had the one kiddo, so my qualifications to write this post are limited. I have experience in my work seeing growing families as new members arrive, but I asked my friends and family to help me out with this post. Thank you for taking the time to get back to me with your thoughts on older sibling support, I’m sure my readers can benefit from all of your experiences. (And yes, I’m thinking mostly about the traditional family because that’s where most of my experience lies, but most of this advice can be adapted for adoptions and fostering or blended families)
Tip #1. Provide transition time. This includes things like moving your older child’s car seat to the side instead of the middle, or setting up some baby furniture items in advance so they can get used to the new set up. Give your older child a baby doll so they can act out the role of parent, but don’t worry. Kids know the difference between a real baby and a doll. They are likely to be rough because they know it’s a toy. There are also some great books out there for kids expecting new family members, but don’t overdo it. Kids need a break from all the baby talk.
Tip #2. Involve your older child in tasks. Big sis can choose an outfit for baby, or big bro can tell a story while baby gets a diaper change. Older kids can test a bottle temperature on their wrist , or they can help with bath time. Being a helper provides a sense of confidence and pride as well. When they tell their new sibling a story and see a smile, the child can take credit for that. You can help by saying things like, “your baby brother loves it when you tell him stories” or “she likes when you play peek-a-boo with her”
Tip #3. Carve out special time for your older child. When the new family member arrives, your other child will likely feel left out and jealous. Make time to read a special story, even if it’s while you are nursing or rocking another child. Take a short walk with your child, and make sure he/she knows how special they are. Even five minutes can make a big difference.
Tip #4. Last but not least, make sure you nurture each family members own identity. What I mean by this is not to compare your children to each other, especially if you have twins (experience speaking here). Each child develops in their own time, and just because your first child walked at 10 months doesn’t mean that your second child will. Nurture strengths in each of your children, and don’t sweat the little things.