Here Comes Another! Ways to Help Your Firstborn Adjust to a New Baby

22 July, 2017
  • Many parents imagine their children in a blissful future state: playing together, getting along, laughing, treating each other kindly, and always having each other’s backs.

    But a new baby can cause serious upheaval for older brothers and sisters. That’s understandable. Your firstborn was the center of your universe, getting your rapt attention at his every adorable coo and tear-filled cry. With his basic needs fulfilled all of the time, he felt loved, a sense of belonging and occupied a (rather kingly) place in the family.
    And then…along came baby sister.
    With mom and dad (or dad and dad) focusing so much attention and energy on the baby, firstborn children may find themselves lost and struggling to find their place among this new family dynamic. And, depending on their age, they may not have the emotional tools to manage such a sudden and momentous shift. They’ve literally been dethroned by a tiny baby.

    Faced with the new queen in the castle, you may find your sweet, sweet boy suddenly changes. He may become:

    Aggressive, by pinching, hitting, or grabbing things from the new baby—which often elicits the big reaction they seek from the parent.

    A super pleaser, eager to help and do whatever is needed (at the expense of her own wants and needs). You might notice that your child seems fearful that she is still loved and important to you.

    A “baby” again, regressing and wanting to drink from a bottle, to be carried, and even to sleep in a crib again.

    Attention-seeking (and not always in a good way). She may make messes and get into things she used to know were off limits. He may throw a fit over little things like getting into his car seat or putting on his shoes.

    Luckily, you can soften the impact of the new addition by helping older sibling can find a positive role within the new dynamic and giving him plenty of love, too. Here’s how:

    Read books together about new babies and how to be a big brother or sister. 

    They often give words to the complex feelings your child has.

    Give older siblings plenty of opportunities to make meaningful contributions. 

    Let him help make dinner by washing and tearing lettuce for the salad or asking him to carry in the mail. He’ll feel proud and capable and have less need to get attention in negative ways.

    Understand that your older child might regress. 

    This is not the time to move your toddler out of his crib, start toilet training, changing his nursery or school, take the binky away, or push the older child to grow up.

    Encourage the physical components of bonding between older sibling and baby.

    Kissing her baby brother’s head and looking into his eyes increases connection and bonding.

    Allow your child to express both positive and negative emotions about the baby.

    Empathize with his feelings. Make sure he feels heard and understood, not judged.

    Don’t use the baby as the excuse. 

    The baby’s needs might truly be the reason you can’t play a game right now, but don’t mention that. Instead try language like, I would love to play with you. How about you read a book to me now, and in 10 minutes I’ll get down on the floor and play trains?

    Plan special time with only your oldest child. 

    Visitors would love some baby-holding time. Pass along the baby to your guests and give your first-born some much needed mommy or daddy time and attention.

    Enlist the help of friends and family.

    When they come to visit ask them to bring a gift for the older child if they bring one for the baby. Ask them to reach out to the older child first before asking to see the new baby.