How to prevent sibling rivalry
Suzanne Clinton is a prenatal educator with Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.
Question: I have a 4-year-old son at home and I am pregnant with a baby girl. How can I help my 4-year-old adjust to the new baby?
Answer: I always recommend that you involve the older siblings in as much planning for the new baby, as age-appropriate. For instance, let them go with you to pick out a special outfit for the new baby, or show them photos of themselves as an infant.
As part of that preparation, make sure you explain the plans for the first days of being an older sibling. Such as letting them know that you will be at the hospital, but they will be staying with someone important, grandma or a close family member. If possible, have the child come to the hospital for a visit soon after the baby is born so they feel a part of the growing family.
Expect a little bit of regression, which is normal. When they see the baby getting more attention, older children often feel competition for affection. To help battle this issue, make sure you have one-on-one time with your older child and try to be "fair" with your time. For instance, your older child might often hear "Just a minute, I am changing the baby's diaper." Every once in a while, try to re-prioritize when you can, such as "Just a minute baby, I am getting your big brother a drink right now."
To really help get your child in the spirit of this incredible change, look for classes that teach your older child just what being an older sibling means in your family. Banner Desert Medical Center offers a great Sibling Adjustment Class that teaches soft touch, diaper helper tasks and even has the children make a craft project for baby. It is an excellent way for you and your child to pick up some small tricks for this big adjustment.
Reviewed February 2011