New baby on the way? It’s exciting to be adding a new member to your family. Your little one will have a new playmate, and you will get another breathing nose to check at night!
There is no doubt, you will love the new little bundle of joy, but don’t be surprised if your old little bundle of joy starts showing signs of sibling jealousy (before and/or after new baby’s arrival).
As you’re busy on Pinterest planning those newborn photo shoots and browsing baby name websites, don’t forget to plan and prep sibling for the new arrival. Here are some ideas to prevent sibling jealousy, which you can use either before or after baby arrives.
Talk To Them About Baby
Sometimes we tend to assume that kids just understand what it means to have a new baby in the house, but that is often not the case at all. Then we are surprised when children are too loud and noisy while baby sleeps. Remember, they need to be educated about everything baby. This isn’t common knowledge for kids like it is for adults. Go over how fragile they are, how cute they are, what their diaper cream is for, why you need burp cloths, how messy things might get, etc. It can help to go through everything in your new baby stockpile to explain what it is and why new baby might need it. Also, go over the intangible needs of baby (a baby needs lots of sleep at first, so we’ll need a quiet house while baby naps… a baby needs lots of mommy time because he can’t walk yet, etc.) Above all else, explain that you have plenty of love for both of them. You can use an analogy to help them understand, like how the sun shines just as brightly and warmly on everyone, and your love is a lot like the sunshine. There is enough love for everyone.
New Baby Books At The Library
Really do this one. Don’t just skip past it. It is free to go to the library, and if you don’t have a card already, either get one, or just stay for the afternoon and read new baby books to your little one without checking any out. There are so many children’s books with a new baby theme (some positive, some humorously negative), and some libraries have a whole section dedicated to the topic, so be sure to ask a librarian for guidance. This can help sibling understand that a new baby is a common thing and give them a window into how life might change. It also takes something familiar to them (books) to explain something unfamiliar, which can help them feel more comfortable welcoming the change.
An Important Job
For some reason, toddlers love having a job. It makes them feel important when they know someone is depending on them for something. Explain what their role as a big sister or brother is and what that means / why it is so important. They get to lead by example, teach new things to baby and protect the baby from harm (bugs, sun, cold, etc). It is fun to watch as they cover baby, keep strange pets at a distance and really take their job to heart. This helps them see baby as someone who needs them, rather than seeing baby as someone who replaces them.
Buy A Big Sister Camera
Of course, you knew this would be on my list, as a professional photographer, but hear me out. Our new baby was due Christmas Eve, so one of big sister’s Christmas gifts was a new camera to take pictures of baby brother when he arrived. We purchased a new camera, but you could even use an old smart phone or tablet. The idea here is to give them a way to celebrate, a challenge to learn and an art to master. It also gives them something that is okay to do while baby is napping. You can sit together and go through your favorite newborn photographer’s website (shoutout to Especially Newborn Photography), and talk about which ones they think are the cutest. Let them know how excited you are to see the amazing photos they will take of new baby. Every few days, browse through these photos together and talk about them, encourage them.
Mommy Date To Look Forward To
Explain how mommies and babies need a few weeks to rest and get stronger because having a baby is a lot of work, and then give them a special date to look forward to. “When baby is X days old, s/he can be left with a sitter, and you and I will have a special Mommy date.” Put it on the calendar so they can count down and see it getting closer. You could do dinner and a movie, Build-A-Bear, nail salon, or whatever sounds fun (and manageable). It doesn’t have to be especially glamorous to be special, though. It can be something as simple as going out for appetizers or dessert, or going to the store to get a helium balloon, or going to the market to pick a few treats. This way, they have something to look forward to, alone time with Mommy, and they still feel they are being made a priority.
Include Sibling in the Attention
As you’re giggling over baby and singing adoring songs, sibling can get jealous for your attention. It can help to share the attention by asking, “What do you think baby’s thinking right now?” In this way, you invite sibling to join in the fun. Maybe it’s a song and they have a special part. Maybe you lay them side by side to see who’s bigger, whose tummy is more ticklish, whose toes are longer. Maybe it’s a funny face baby is making that you don’t want them to miss so you call them in. Maybe it’s sweet snuggle time. Just being included is often just as good as having the attention all to themselves.
Develop a Motto
In our house it’s, “Show your brother love.” This works for all kinds of things when I am seeing her snatch toys away, bad attitude toward brother, not helping him, being rough with him, whatever! Feel free to use that or develop a motto of your own that fits a variety of circumstances. It is a great reminder of what a brother should mean and how they should be treated with kindness and love.
Say What Big Brother Is Doing, First
Ever have someone compliment the person standing next to you? And then they turn their gaze to you and chip in a compliment for you, too? You get that feeling like, yeah thanks, but no thanks. Well, even kids know when they’re being thrown in as an afterthought. As much as possible (aim for 50/50), try to talk about big brother / big sister and the new things they’re doing first before spilling over with joy about new baby’s milestones. Say what a big helper they’re being, what new vocabulary they’re learning, how fast they’re learning to be a good big brother, this, that or the other thing. Then chip in some raving adorations for new baby.
Tuesday Tea Time
Baby needs a lot of time. But big sister needs time, too! After baby arrives, carve out time once a week to have a special tradition with older brother or sister. For my daughter, it was Tuesday Tea Time. Every Tuesday (no set time), she and I would have a little tea party, just the two of us. We would both dress up a little fancy and accessorize with beads, crowns, and maybe a little lipstick. We’d have tea in our newly purchased, fancy teacups, a few snacks (like cookies or marshmallows) and just talk. One thing I would always ask, “Do you have any questions for me?” Open conversation, and you might be surprised how connecting this becomes! Feel free to steal this tradition, or arrange one of your own that fits with your child’s personality. Plan it during naptime, or arrange for Daddy, Grandma, Auntie or neighbor to come care for baby for that hour. This one-on-one time where you just talk, uninterrupted, is so precious and meaningful for both of you, especially in those early days when she may feel like she is losing touch with you. Over the years, we have continued our Tuesday Tea Time tradition, though not as frequently. Who knows, maybe she’ll be driving back home in her college days on Tuesdays for tea (a mom can dream, right?).
Just A Minute, Baby
In those early days, weeks and months, older sibling is asked to wait probably 90% more than they ever have before. They are not used to being put second. This is a surefire recipe for jealousy. Unless. Unless you show them that baby has to wait sometimes, too. And honestly, baby does wait for big sibling. A lot! You dont even have to plan this; you just need to express it aloud so they can see that baby has to wait for them at times, too. When you are almost done with those pretty pig tails and baby starts fussing, “Just a minute, baby. I’m with big sister now. You’ll have to wait.” Just those few simple words in a calm voice can make all the difference. They feel important, and they realize that there are times when they are being put first, too.
Instead of shushing big sister with my finger over my lips, we developed something a little more special. In advance, we planned out a secret gesture. Whenever she would approach the doorway and I was trying to get baby to fall sleep (or back to sleep), I would look up and blow her a kiss. Then she would blow a kiss back. This meant she understood it was time to be quiet. Instead of a shush that made her feel shunned away, we had this loving gesture that made her feel more like she was in on the secret that baby should be napping. You could also use a wink, thumbs up, make a silly face, whatever works for you and your child.
I’m sure there are probably countless other ways to prevent sibling jealousy when new baby arrives, but these are just some that we have used in our household with success. I hope you find some that work for you.
Don’t forget to have someone document those first few moments when siblings meet for the first time. This memory is beyond priceless to me.
Did you find this information encouraging and helpful? Please feel free to share and help other parents, too.