A slight miscommunication or action may be a catalyst for a “sibling rivalry” throughout their growing stages. Picture: Supplied
A slight miscommunication or action may be a catalyst for a “sibling rivalry” throughout their growing stages. Picture: Supplied

How to ease older children into a new life with a new sibling

By IOL Supplied Time of article published Apr 30, 2020

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Many parents forget that their first-born children centre their entire universe around their parents, especially if they are an only child. Little do we know how upside-down their world is turned when we deliver the news that they are about to have a new brother or sister. 

Any person that grew up with siblings definitely has a few stories to share and some they would rather forget. But, do they know how important their parent’s role was in fostering a healthy relationship between them and their siblings from the beginning? 

Parenting and Pampers Institute Expert, Sister Yolanda Mpilo says, “It is important to be aware of the tone and gesture of how we introduce the news to our young ones about their new sibling. It’s a great opportunity to get your child and their sibling in a bonding phase even before birth.” 

However, she advised that age does play a key role in how your child adjusts to this new development. It is essential to take the correct approach when starting this conversation. 

A slight miscommunication or action may be a catalyst for a “sibling rivalry” throughout their growing stages. 

Mpilo adds that “while parents understand the effects these life-changing announcements have on children at different milestones in their life, there is still a large number of children who grow up bickering with their siblings because of evident change in daily routines and attention shift from mom and dad.”

She shares some best-practise tips on how to introduce the new addition to their siblings at various age gaps:

1-3 years:

  • You have to be visual when breaking the news to your child. Read storybooks that have or include words like “younger brother” and “younger sister”, play with your child and ask if their younger brother is allowed to play with them when their sibling arrives.
  • Make time for their night rubs or any routine they have and express how proud you are of them growing up to be a big boy or girl.
  • Read bed times stories that talk about babies and families

3-5 years:

  • At this age, honesty should always be a priority when breaking the news to the young pre-schooler. 
  • Subtle actions of flashing new baby clothes next to them or asking them to assist pack in new baby items. This will display a sense of trust and responsibility, which they will also develop towards their new sibling 
  • Try not to move your child from their room to repurpose it for a nursey. This may show signs of being replaced. Instead, take an old item like a crib and ask if his younger sister could use it. This signals a moment of maturity and growth for your child.

6+ years:

  •  At this age, your child is more independent and well on their way to attending primary school. Announcing the news to them should be in an understanding, calm and warm tone.
  • Try to have this conversation during your usual bonding time (e.g. bath time). Ask them how they feel about having a new sibling
  • Give them an active role in helping to prepare for the sibling's arrival by asking them to pick a colour of paint for the nursery room.
  • Once the baby is born and at home, involve your first-born in helping take care of them. Teach them how to hold the baby correctly; this will build their confidence in being responsible and trustworthy. Ask for help when changing the baby’s nappy, this will make them feel like they are playing a big role in their new sibling’s development and growth. This also allows your children to build a bond early on. 

The most important thing is to avoid making your first-born feel as if they are being side-lined. While the family may fuss over the new arrival, it is important that the other child gets equal attention and affection, and never feels neglected. 

“Eventually how children build or classify their relationship as siblings is rooted by parents and how well they foster a loving and peaceful environment. There will always be disagreement, which may need parents’ intervention. But, a good foundation will help them navigate any conflict and continue to love each other as siblings well into their old age”, Yolanda concludes.

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