Preparing Your Child For A New Sibling

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By Adrienne Durkin

babyThe arrival of a new baby is a big transition for any family, and for a young child, welcoming a new sibling can be challenging. It is common for children to feel apprehensive and sometimes jealous, and it is not uncommon for children in this situation to act out.

Fortunately, parents can help prepare their children for an addition to the family in many ways. Although there is no “perfect time” to break the news, setting aside time to have a conversation and answer questions is critical.

If your child doesn’t have lots of questions right away, don’t force the issue. They might need time to process the news in their own way. When they are ready, they will ask questions. Take time then to talk with them.

If they are immediately interested, there are many things that you can do to help them think about the transition in a positive way.

* Show them baby pictures of themselves when they came home from the hospital.

* If you have a friend or family member with a newborn, take your child to visit.

* Take your child to a doctor’s visit so that they can hear the heartbeat.

* Would your child like to help you think of potential baby names?

* Read books to your child about becoming a big brother or big sister.

* Have a baby doll that can play the role of your infant. Pretend play about holding the baby and setting up some ground rules can be very helpful.

If you have to make room adjustments, do them as early as possible. This will allow for your child to settle in before the baby arrives.

familyvectorMore and more hospitals now offer sibling preparatory classes. These classes usually teach children how to hold a baby, explain how a baby is born, and offer a chance for kids to express how they feel about this big change. If you can, take your child to a class. It is a great way for them to learn about the process, and it is a chance for them to meet other kids going through the same experience.

As the baby’s arrival grows closer, make arrangements for your child while you are in the hospital. Make sure that they understand what the plans are, and that they are comfortable with them.

Once the baby is born, bring your child to the hospital to meet the baby as soon as possible, preferably when no one else is around. Make the time special.

When the baby comes home, try to keep to your child’s regular routine as stable as possible. When the baby is napping, spend one-on-one time with your older child. Setting aside a certain time each day to do something special. It can be as simple as reading a short book or doing puzzle. Giving them something to look forward to doing with you each day can be very reassuring.

Enjoy the journey! It will be an adventure for all of you.

– Adrienne Durkin is the author of the Sam and Coodles series. Sam and Coodles: The Room at the End of the Hall was created when Adrienne and her husband moved their son from the nursery outside their bedroom to a room down the hall when they were expecting their second child. Adrienne wanted to create a series of books for young children getting new siblings, starting before the baby is born and continuing after the new baby comes home. For information on the series, visit SamandCoodles.com.

When Sibling Rivalry Turns To Sibling Bullying

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By Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

friendsSiblings naturally fight and argue, and most of us have experienced fighting with our brothers or sisters while growing up. This is not only considered normal, but is a rite of passage in our childhood memories. The problem comes about when sibling rivalry takes on a tone of bullying. This is seen when one child is always the one victimized, and the other child actively plots how they can break that child down. This sort of bullying is not normal, and parents should intervene to minimize anxiety, depression in the child being victimized, and aggression in their child bully. Both kids will suffer the loss of good mental health if this behavior is allowed to continue, says a new study in the July issue of Journal of Pediatrics.

When the researchers studied sibling bullying they did not extend past adolescents, but much of counseling deals with sibling rivalry and bullying behavior. Sometimes siblings form alliances against one of the other siblings, and cut them out of the family entirely. A child who grew up being picked on may continually be picked on well into adulthood. It is not uncommon for a parent to begin over protecting this child and continue into adulthood. Children of the “weaker picked on child/adult” are favored over children of the bully child (now adult). These patterns, unless intervened with in childhood, can forever change family dynamics, making them toxic and uncomfortable for family and friends.

Intervening in sibling rivalry should be done with careful thought and diligence. Allowing siblings to work out their own jealousy and conflict is important, but when parents are both working and one sibling is angry and aggressive repeatedly toward another child, the child being picked on may become victimized with little recourse. Many times children are told if they tell a parent, they will be hurt or worse, and if a child worries about being beat on they will begin showing physical and emotional signs of distress. There are ways parents can intervene wisely when children are fighting too much.

Below are suggestions to help your kids improve their relationships with one another.

meangirls* If you have one child that is a bully and wants control over the other child or children, one thing is clear, this child suffers from self-doubt and an error in thinking. Telling them frankly, “When you get mad, you think it is okay to hurt someone else, but it is not okay in this family.” Tell them this behavior is bully behavior and you will not tolerate it, and then following through with consequences each and every time they bully is paramount to any other action.

* If you have one angry or aggressive child, encourage empathy by rewarding signs of it in your home. Limit TV and movies or anything else that is violent.

* Get both of your children involved in activities that will help them physically work out their frustration or stress.

* As parent, never compare your children to one another out loud or within earshot of the children. Some children are very sensitive to this, and it can increase jealousy and mistrust.
* Have one area in your home where kids can talk things out or bicker. If you hear bickering in their rooms or wherever, take them to the table. Setting up a time each evening for them to bicker at a table can help minimize the behavior. Enforce this for best results.

* Never referee the fighting or conflict. As much as you can, try to stay out of it.

Parents who raise children who have learned how to resolve conflict and still love one another are gifting their children and generations to come. Home is where the heart is, and it is suppose to be safe. If you are a child and you live in fear of being home with the people who are suppose to love and care for you, your home becomes a war zone. There is no love or peace in a child’s memory or the adult they grow to become.

– Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.