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With a new baby comes a lot of changes for the entire family. The bond between your older child and their new baby sibling is an important milestone in their development that you can help cultivate.
Here are five tips to help your older child form a bond with your newborn.
Older children can show a multitude of emotions ranging from excitement to jealousy about the news of a newborn. However, just like a mother and newborn are able to bond before birth, your older child can do the same. Whether you have a toddler or a teen, talk to your child about the baby and acknowledge her feelings about how it may change things.
Share pictures from your ultrasounds and compare them to the ultrasound images from your older child. Encourage him to talk to your belly and let him feel when the baby is kicking. Ask questions about what they think the baby will like and dislike. Keep the conversations light and let your child express negative emotions without judgment. As you involve your older child in simple choices like where to put the crib and which onesie to pack for the hospital, their excitement will begin to build.
Another way to help provide bonding opportunities for your older child is to set clear expectations of his new role. Let him know that you will rely on him to help teach the baby all the things he has learned. Be clear that you’ll be spending a lot of time with the baby, but that you trust in his independence. Get him excited about the fact that he is going to have a new person to play with, to teach, to protect, and to help mom and dad raise.
When a baby is born, life is hectic. Don’t be afraid to give your older child special jobs to help out, but do remember to thank them often and with sincerity for their help. The more involved they are, the stronger the bond will become. If you have a toddler, have her help sing songs to put the baby to sleep. If you have an elementary aged child, they can help choose a baby’s outfit for the day, pack the diaper bag, and even change diapers. A teenager can tend baby while you make dinner or vice versa.
If your child isn’t interested in helping out, don’t force it. Forcing it will make the special job seem more like a chore and this may result in resentful feelings toward you and the newborn. If this is the case, try waiting and asking again in a few days.
Quality time builds strong bonds. There are a lot of activities for your older child and newborn to bond over. Teach your toddler to play gently with the baby through activities like peekaboo or sharing tummy time. Your elementary aged child likely has many skills he would enjoy showing off for the baby—like reading, stacking blocks, finding interesting textures around the house, and performing acrobatics for baby’s amusement.
Don’t be surprised that your teenager is more interested in her own personal life, but she can still form a strong bond through short and sweet activities like reading a story or simply holding the baby while you catch a much-needed shower.
One of the biggest reasons an older child has difficulties bonding with a newborn is the sudden and drastic disruptions a baby brings. Let your child know that routines will change based on the needs of the baby, but rituals like family night, sporting events, and holidays are still on.
If bedtime stories are a tradition, be sure to keep it going. Whatever little rituals you have with your older child, be sure to maintain them to the best of your ability. This will help your child know that their needs are still a top priority..
Having a baby requires your family to make a lot of adjustments. These changes may be tough, annoying, or even scary for older siblings, but if your child forms a strong bond with the newborn, they’ll adjust. For more help on ways to prepare your older child for a newborn, be sure to check out the article “Bringing Home Your Second Baby” or the Utah Valley Pediatric blog.