>Some of the most magical moments for any family involve the arrival of a newborn sibling. There is joy in the new birth and excitement over the possibilities of this young life. The former “babies” of the household elevate their status overnight to become “big” brothers or sisters. The luckiest ones may even score a larger bed or bigger bedroom in the process. Yes, there are many wonderful changes that come when a new baby enters a family, but sometimes the adjustment period holds some rough edges for the littlest of family members.

The following tips are offered to help your older child(ren) transition well to your expanding family:

Set clear expectations

When my second daughter was on the way, my older daughter was thrilled at the prospect of having a live-in playmate. Her hopes were dashed by Day 2, however, when she realized that this new “live-in” did a whole lot of sleeping, dominated Mommy’s time with round-the-clock feeding, and—least tolerable of all—cried a heck of a lot.

Prepare your older child for the ups, downs, and realities of life with a newborn. Tell stories about his own days as a newborn, visit with other families that have infants, preview what your home’s daily routine will be like, and read books about life with a new sibling. One of my daughter’s favorite books during our newborn transition was Mercer Mayer’s The New Baby. It made her laugh and seemed to normalize some of the tougher newborn moments.

Give a Promotion

Allow your older child(ren) to take on the role of “Special Helper” in the family. Even toddlers can provide a much-needed set of extra arms for fetching diapers, handing over out-of-reach bottles, grabbing spit-up cloths in a jiffy, and selecting bath toys. Older kids can get involved in making bottles, changing diapers (who doesn’t want help with that?) and reading to the baby.

There are countless ways to involve siblings in caring for a newborn baby. Be sure to express your appreciation for all that they do. Also, reassure them that the place that they hold in your heart is as special as ever—and that your love for them will never change.

Gifts Never Fail

Newborns are often showered with gifts—adorable baby hats, booties, onesies, and cozy blankets seem to arrive by the armful with every new visitor. While parents appreciate these precious items, the newborn has no meaningful awareness of the cascade of presents. But older children sure do. While there are lessons to be learned for older children about their sibling being deserving of gifts and that they are not always the center of attention, the best-learned lessons are also those that are well-timed. In the overwhelming moments of the newborn transition, it’s difficult for siblings to take in the imbalance of gifts—the feeling that they are missing out on Christmas. When well-meaning guests arrive with gifts for baby only, parents can have on hand a cute hat, stuffed toy, board book, or simple dollar-store item that your older child can unwrap and enjoy.

One of my favorite moments of our family’s newborn transition was during the thrill of our first Christmas as a larger family, when my older child asked if she could pick out presents for the baby. Initially, I was suspicious that we were going to go on a thinly-veiled shopping spree for her own holiday list, but as it turned out, her shopping list was shockingly thoughtful and right on the money for what her three-month old sister would enjoy. ‘Tis true what they say; it is better to give than to receive, even for young ones!

When a new baby enters the family, everyone’s life changes! A little advance planning, helper-cultivating, and gift-stashing can go a long way toward making this one of the happiest periods in your young family’s life.

Now that we’ve covered ways to help older siblings adjust to their expanding families…let’s take a turn to the Passive Aggressive side of things.  What stories do you have of children “welcoming” newborn siblings, in sugarcoated but hostile ways?

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