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From Center of the Universe to Big Sibling Extraordinaire: Nurturing Resilience and Love in Older Children

Congratulations, you have a new member of the family! Good job, mom and baby! Everyone is safe and healthy. But... what does allllll this mean to the rest of the family? It’s often a sore spot for most young older children. Their life was so great - being the center of the universe, having everything to themselves, parents dropping everything whenever they cry or yawn or speak. Until it arrived: the baby who came home and never left.

Like everything else in a child’s (or really everyone’s) life, changes must be prepared for. Even though your child can’t speak yet and seems to be mostly agreeable about anything, they are going to have particular feelings about a new baby in their home. Preparation, intentionality, and concrete actions are what we’re aiming for. Just saying “You’re going to have a new brother or sister!” doesn’t work. They totally do not know what that means. So besides referring to your belly as their sibling (something way over their heads), it’s best to refer to tangible things around them that can help them grasp the concept. Here are some ideas:

  • Read a book about siblings

  • Refer to people they know (preferably people their size - other children) who are siblings

  • Have them prepare the new baby’s room and pick out items for it

  • Start singing songs to the baby in vitro, as eventually, they’ll be singing songs to the baby when they’re outside the womb

  • Help them imagine themselves with a sibling by saying things like:

    • You will help me take care of your sister

    • You and your sister will have fun playing together

    • You have to watch out for your brother because he will be small and will need an older brother

    • What will you do with your sister when she arrives?

  • Label the feelings they could have about the new baby

    • You will have fun with him

    • I will be with your brother a lot at the beginning because he has to be fed a lot. But we want to make sure he grows up big and strong, right?

    • You will grow up together and care for each other

Another paramount tip when the baby is born: spend alone time with the older one. This will help them feel like they didn’t lose a mom, but gained a sibling.

Check out Mayo Clinic for further reading on this topic.

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