The views expressed in this post are those of a Spoke contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Red Tricycle.
Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor will soon be a big brother to Baby Girl Sussex. And you can bet this is an exciting time for Prince Harry and Dutchess Meghan as well as the new big brother. But the journey to bringing home a new baby can also be a time of anxious change as families introduce the first child to their new family member. Kelly Oriard, licensed family therapist and co-founder of Slumberkins, shares her advice for Harry and Meghan and all families navigating this big change.
1. Do the Prep Work
Well before the baby is born, begin talking about when the baby is coming, what it will be like, and what the big sibling’s role will be once the baby arrives.
2. Be Honest
Don’t just say, “It will be awesome having a sibling!” While at times it will be awesome, it can also be super hard for older siblings. Remember even toddlers without many words need to hear, “The baby may cry—and that may be hard to hear” or “Sometimes Daddy and Mommy will need to help the baby and you may have to practice waiting.” Honesty will help set realistic expectations.
3. Celebrate the Big Sibling Role
Make sure to celebrate that they get to be the big sibling now. Hooray! But don’t forget to remind them that they can still be your little baby too. Growing up doesn’t mean fewer snuggles, love or attention. Just some cool perks too.
4. Don’t Blame the Baby
Kelly shares, “The very best advice I have is don’t blame the baby for things once the baby comes.” Don’t say, “We have to leave the park for the baby’s nap time.” Kelly points out that this sets up an easy target for frustration. Instead say, “It’s time for our family to leave the park now.”
5. Teach Safety
Remember that your toddler is still learning impulse control and doesn’t yet understand how to be gentle with a baby. Try not to yell or get frustrated if your toddler shows typical toddler behaviors (hitting or aggression). Instead, remember that a caregiver’s role can be to teach and help practice.
6. Welcome All Feelings
This is an important tip as acting out when a new sibling arrives is normal. Make space for all emotions while stopping unsafe behaviors.
7. Make One-on-One Time for You & Your Older Child
They will need this. Period.
8. Support Bonding Between the Siblings
Making reflections like, “Wow, look at how the baby is looking at you, I can tell they really like the way you are holding them” or “That was so kind the way you noticed the baby was cold, thanks for bringing a blanket.” Narrating the connection that you notice between your children and stating it can help them really feel love and connection to and from their new sibling.
Following these tips and tricks can help to ease the growing pains families feel when introducing new siblings. Remember that even good change can come with some anxiety and stress. Doing some prep work to prepare your little one can help your family have a smoother transition. Slumberkins also has many great resources to help siblings of all ages develop positive ways to cope with their big emotions. It’s a great time to practice emotion identification or introduce your little one to Alpaca who models stress-relief or Fox who provides comfort during times of change.