Mary Sweeney | February 1 | Cougar Chronicle

Dear New School Early Childhood Families,

Expanding Our Family at TNS: How to Help Your Child Prepare for a New Sibling at Home

The New School family has been growing leaps and bounds this year. Many of our students have welcomed new siblings to their families. For those who are thinking about expanding, or recently have, you may be wondering how this change could affect your firstborn. This is a common question we hear. It’s important to know that each family dynamic is different and that every child will react differently to the news and the arrival of a new sibling. I remember when my second daughter was about to be born we would ask my oldest, “if she wanted a baby sister or baby brother?”  She constantly told us she wanted a Barbie Hot Wheel.  She did not really want either. This is a favorite memory of ours still today.

We have all seen the heartwarming videos online of older siblings crying when they met their little brother or sister for the first time or the videos of a child crying when they found out their sibling isn’t a boy or a girl as they hoped. These stories are always memorable but in the moment very real for our favorite little people. So how do families best explain and prepare their firstborns for the new addition to the family and make it just as exciting for them?

Depending on the child’s age, there are many different ways you can help prepare your family for a new baby. The one thing we do know is, it’s best to explain what’s happening in a way that will make sense to your child at their age and make them feel included in the process. 

·       Children that are younger than age 2. This age child likely won't understand yet what it means to have a new sibling. Continue to talk to your child about the new addition to your family. Look at picture books about babies and families. You are likely to see more understanding when the newborn is here and real to them.

·       Children ages 2 to 4. Children at this age are still quite attached to their parents and might feel jealous sharing your attention with a newborn. Explain that the baby will need lots of attention. Read to your older child about babies and a great idea at this age is to give your older child a doll so that he or she can be a caregiver, too. My favorite idea is to look at your older child's baby pictures together and tell the story of their birth and stories of when they were a baby. My teenage children still love to hear “their” stories.

·       School-age children. Older children might feel jealous of how much attention a new baby gets. Talk to your older child about your newborn's needs. Point out the advantages of being older, such as going to bed later and having more toys, etc. You might display something your older child can make in the baby's room or ask your older child to help take care of the baby in some way.

The flip side to this is that some children will start acting out. Your older child might try to get attention by breaking rules and pushing buttons — even if it means getting in trouble. Some children even regress in skills or act younger than their age. To stop these behaviors, start by praising your older child when they are behaving well. If you suspect your child is behaving badly to get attention, consider ignoring the behavior. This might encourage your child to look for a more positive way to get your attention. Most important is to take the time to talk to your older child. Ask them how it feels to have a new sibling... and listen. This is where the one-on-one time is very much needed if possible, even if it is with a grandparent or friend.

Regardless of your older child's age, make sure they get individual attention when the new baby arrives. If you're taking pictures or videos, include your older child. Take pictures or videos of him or her alone, too. Consider having a few small gifts on hand to give to your older child in case friends visit with gifts for the new baby. Just so you know my daughter did get a new Barbie Big Wheel the day her new sister arrived and she also eventually came to love having a new baby sister-17 years later they are the best of friends. 

Although the stress of a new sibling can be tough at times. They bring both parents and children love and excitement. Enjoy the small moments and memories each day.

We have welcomed many new additions this year to our community and we want to wish all the big sisters and big brothers many fun years ahead.

TNS Strong, 

Mary Sweeney

Head of Early Childhood 

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