Growing Up: A New Sibling

by Malia Jacobson
This article is reprinted from the original source: Charlotte Parenting Magazine and can be found at


Welcoming a new sibling is a common childhood experience – the U.S. Census Bureau reports that nearly 80 percent of families have more than one child. While the arrival of a new brother or sister is one of the most momentous, exciting events in a child’s life, according to Robin Chancer, social worker at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, kids won’t always welcome the new bundle with open arms. Toddlers and preschoolers may be overly curious or jealous, and older children and teens may act indifferent or resentful. Luckily, parents can help ease the new-baby transition with specific tactics for siblings of all ages.


New Baby 101: Ages 0-5


For toddlers and preschoolers, preparation can make the difference between a smooth sibling transition and a chaotic postpartum period. Prepare the new baby’s living and sleeping space – whether in a solo bedroom, your room or a sibling’s room – well in advance of the baby’s arrival. Likewise, any major transitions, such as potty training, weaning or starting a new day care, should take place at least a month or two before the birth.


But even with plenty of preparation, most kids will experience some regression and lapse back into baby mode once a new sibling comes home. Toilet-training accidents, sudden nighttime awakenings and requests for long-forgotten bottles or pacifiers are common. Allowing tots to help whenever possible by feeding with a bottle, singing a lullaby or fetching diapers or wipes, will help foster a sense of pride and self-esteem and ultimately make for a quicker adjustment, says Chancer.


Making Time: Ages 6-10


Elementary-age kids are becoming more independent, but they still need plenty of their parents’ time, whether it’s for homework help, shuttling to extracurricular activities or talking through life’s daily ups and downs. When kids see that a newborn sibling zaps all of mom and dad’s time and energy, resentment can set in. The key to preventing new-baby bitterness is giving children daily one-on-one time with mom and dad, says Chancer.


“Try to give your older child your full attention for at least 15 minutes a day. Knowing that they can count on that time with you is comforting,” she says.


Kids need to connect with both mom and dad during this busy time, so don’t designate dad as the go-to parent for older kids while mom does all of the baby care.


Elementary-age kids may be eager to help, so enjoy the extra help with bathing, dressing, feeding and diaper changes. In general, though, kids under 12 aren’t old enough to baby-sit alone.


Smooth the Way: Ages 11-18


Characteristically complicated and emotional, tweens and teens may feel conflicted about a new baby’s arrival. On the one hand, they’re excited to meet their new sibling; on the other hand, they’re anxious about changes to their daily lives and responsibilities.


As with younger kids, preparation can help soothe jangled nerves and smooth the way for a better sibling bond. A few months before the new baby arrives, make sure tweens and teens know how the new arrival will change the family’s daily routine. For example, if parents will have to miss sports events or recitals for a couple of weeks after the birth, let kids know now. Chores and household responsibilities may shift after the baby arrives, so discuss any impending changes well before baby is due.


Don’t assume that a tween or teen is an automatic baby sitter, says Chancer. “Some 12-year-olds are very responsible and are more than ready to baby-sit, while plenty of 14-year-olds may not be. Gauge how conscientious your children are before allowing them to baby-sit. And before you leave home, make sure you have clear plans in place for what to do in case of emergency.”

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