There were a few things that I kept in mind when we had our second child to make baby part of the family.
I truly believed (and still do) that giving baby a voice in the family would help him to bond and play with his older sister. Here are my quick tips for building sibling relationships with a new baby.
Use Baby’s Name
Call your little one by their first name. Instead of thinking about “baby,” it helps kids to think of baby as another person in the family.
This one takes practice because it really is easy to refer to them as baby!
Even before baby is born, talk about what they are doing with older siblings. For example, if they kick, say something like, “oh, I just felt a kick when you walked by…I wonder if baby (use their name if know it already) is excited to hear your voice?”
If baby’s already born, narrate baby’s actions to be about their older siblings, “Did you see that? He stopped crying when you walked by!” <–easy dictation of a simple observation
Since baby doesn’t have a voice during the first year, make sure to give him/her one as needed. If baby is pushed, touched too much, or not being respected by older siblings, set limits early like, “Baby (<–use name) can’t move away when you touch her like that, but can you hear how she’s crying/moaning?” Let them know that you have to move her because she can’t move herself away.
I think this one’s important so that we don’t always keep repeating “you have to be gentle with baby” or something similar (again, that was a hard habit for me to break). Remind them that none of us like to be touched/hit/yelled at like that in our family, not just baby!
This one can’t happen all the time, but instead of having baby on a blanket while the rest of the family plays, invite baby over, too. We always used the phrase, “Oh, Matthew wants to play, too! Can he come join us?” then I’d hold him in my arms while my daughter played.
Again, I couldn’t always do it, but I wanted to practice early on with my daughter that Matthew was going to be an active part of our family play time.
You might be surprised with how much older siblings want to help grab a diaper, open the wipes, give them a bottle, etc. Older siblings get to flex their skills with a baby around!
If they don’t want to help with tasks, let them show off their skills (show baby how high you can jump, how fast you can run, how you can sing, etc.) <–whatever that sibling loves to do most. Remember to make a simple observation like, “Look, baby is watching what you’re doing.”
I also loved letting my daughter pick out clothes for my son.
It was something special that she and I could do together, but that still had a focus on getting something for her brother. We absolutely love Gymboree because of the quality of the clothes and they always have the cutest styles. And, you can find a lot of coordinating clothes for your kids at Gymboree too!
Gymboree is not a sponsor for this post, I just happen to LOVE their store! (affiliate links below)
Give Them Alone Time
I believe this is what really helped build trust between my kids. From a young age, I would “leave” the room with my son in a bouncer chair and my three-year-old while I “grabbed” something quickly (it was not babysitting). I actually wouldn’t leave completely, I still had eyes on both of them, but those few seconds of alone time I trusted my daughter with being alone with her brother.
That turned into minutes later, and now, they are off together all the time a year later. I have learned to trust them and they trust each other <—that’s what family is all about!
Note: You know your children best! Make sure you make choices that fit your kids and their personalities.
These tips have worked for helping sibling relationships with our new baby. What has worked for you? Come on over to our Facebook page and share your story!
More About Sibling Relationships
- Build Sibling Relationships through Unsupervised Play | The Good Long Road
- 5 Tips for Strengthening Sibling Relationships | Hands on: as we Grow
- 20 Ways Siblings Can Help with a New Baby | Still Playing School
- Raise Kids Who Get Along: Bringing Home a New Baby | Mama Smiles