Two-Step Plan to Prepare Your Older Child for a New Baby

Two-Step Plan to Prepare Your Older Child for a New Brother or Sister

Every child has longings for more time and more closeness with their parents. These longings are a big part of why it’s hard to want to go to bed at night, hard to get dressed to go to daycare or to Grandma’s, and why it can even be upsetting to see Mommy or Daddy cuddling or talking on the telephone.

BrothersNothing threatens the norm for a child than the arrival of a new sibling.

Not surprisingly, this is a time when your older child’s world can feel rocked and insecure. And, with the attention that a new baby naturally deserves, your older child can easily feel overlooked and alone.

Every child needs a chance to air their feelings about wanting more, or indeed, wanting all your time and attention. This good, lasting way to help your child has two seemingly opposite steps.

Step One – Making Time

The first is to offer them Special Time during which you pour your attention, your approval, and your closeness. You allow your child to choose what play they want to do with you.

You can start Special Time by saying expectantly, “OK, we have fifteen minutes, and I’ll play with you any way you want to!” with a lively tone. Then, keep your attention focused on your child. Let the phone ring, and postpone your need to get a cup of tea during this time.

It’s surprisingly hard for us to do—because parenting is stressful, we almost always try to teach, to direct, or to get little jobs done while we’re playing with our children. What Special Time does is it helps your child, and you, too, notice that you are paying loving attention and letting them make decisions for a while.

Step Two – Notice and React

The second important step is to notice when your child longs for exclusive closeness with you.

  • Is it when new people are around?
  • Is it when you both arrive at daycare or at the grandparents’ house?
  • Is it at bedtime, with pleas for story after story to keep you close?

When a child feels upset about a possible separation, however minor it may be, their feelings of needing you are ready to be released. They need the reassurance that you love them and the chance to cry as long as possible to drain the reservoir of sadness about you going away.

They can best do that with you close, telling them: “I’m going to leave, but I’ll come back. I’ll always come back to you.” Or, in the case of bedtime: “You’re safe here. I’ll be in the next room, and I’ll see you in the morning.”

For more on this, listen to our replay of When Your Child Won’t Go Anywhere without you – Healing Separation.

If your child feels safe enough, they will cry, and the listening you do will help heal that feeling of never having enough of you.

These two steps, repeated over time, help prepare a child for the challenge of a sibling’s demands on your attention.

This article is part of our “Ultimate Sibling Rivalry Survival Guide” which is FREE to download here.

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