The Birth of a Sibling
JANUARY 13, 2020
The birth of a second child changes the lives of everyone in the family but especially that of the firstborn. Research has found that firstborns usually “have positive, long-lasting relationships with their siblings, and they invest in the relationships over a lifetime.” There are lots of factors that influence whether a sibling relationship will develop positively or not. Most of these factors come from the home environment and can be altered by a parent’s awareness of their importance.
The child’s attitude toward the birth of the new sibling.
The relationship the older child has with their mother.
The relationship the older child has with their father.
The emotional environment in the home.
Relationships with extended family and peers.
So what can parents do to ease this transition?
Parents can work to increase and strengthen their emotional bond with the older child.
To help build this bond, provide predictable, consistent routines, while continuing to have reasonable expectations for behavior.
Listen to the child to express negative feelings about the baby and changes in the family.
Focus on frequent affectionate interactions of reading, talking, sharing good times.
Provide regular outings with one parent.
Expect some negative, hostile reactions as the child adjusts to the changes.
Do not ignore hostility, but do not respond with harshness; be patient.
Designate special times of looking at the older child’s baby pictures.
Read books about childbirth (ones that are developmentally appropriate).
Visit friends who have infants.
Think of potential baby names.
Take the child to an OB appointment to hear the baby’s heartbeat.
Pack the child a bag for the hospital.
Discuss the baby’s wants and needs.
Model effective problem solving with your spouse to show the child how to cope with jealousy and conflict.
1 Smith, V. C. (2013). Preparing a child for the birth of a sibling. International Journal of Childbirth Education, 28(2), 20-24.
2 Berk, Laura (2010). Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 7th ed. Boston, MA.