Module 4: Promoting Mental Health in Early Childhood

Newborn SiblingThe New Baby

Preparing for the Arrival of a New Sibling

Older children may greet a new baby with either open arms or closed minds. Their reaction will depend largely on their age and developmental level.

The arrival of a new baby can bring many changes to a family. It's common for older siblings to feel jealousy toward the newborn and to react to negatively. Sibling rivalry is common when a new baby arrives. Providers can work with families to promote positive sibling relationships and address parental concerns about the arrival of a new sibling.

Questions to Ask

  • How do you think a new baby will change your family?
  • How are you preparing your child for the birth of a new baby?
  • What do your children think about the new baby?
  • Do you think it will be difficult to make time for your other children? How do you plan to do this?

Provider Tips

  • Suggest parents attend sibling preparation classes to foster positive feelings for the newborn or adopted sibling.
  • Using the guidance listed below, discuss ways parents can help their other children prepare for and cope with the demands of a new sibling.

Guidance for Parents

  • Your child will be better able to accept his new sibling if he knows what to expect ahead of time. Prepare him for the arrival of the new baby by:
    • Enrolling him in a class for big brothers and sisters at your local hospital
    • Reading stories about families with a new baby
    • Telling him who will care for him while you are having the new baby
  • Involve your child in the preparations for the new baby as much as possible. Let him help to set up the baby’s room and to pick out toys and clothes for the baby. Explain that the arrival of the baby will make him special because he will become the big brother.
  • After you bring the baby home, ask your older child to help you “take care” of the baby. Give him simple tasks to do that will make him feel needed—bringing you a diaper, folding baby clothes, singing to the baby, or putting the baby’s hat on when you go outside. Praise him for his “grown-up” behavior and let him know how proud you are of him for being such a good helper.
  • Your child may misbehave or return to babyish behavior when the new baby arrives. If he is toilet trained, he may regress and have accidents. If he is weaned from his bottle, he may go back to wanting to drink from a bottle. Don’t criticize, shame, or punish him. These are normal responses to stress and the changes he is going through. Give him lots of hugs and continue to let him know that you love him. In time he will be behaving like a “big boy” again.
  • If your child becomes aggressive with the new baby, immediately remove him and give him a “time out.” Don’t leave your older child alone with the baby until you are sure that he will not be aggressive or take out his feelings of jealousy and anger on the baby.
Resources for Families

Preparing Siblings for a New Baby

Helping Siblings Adjust to the New Baby PDF

Noble E, Sorger L. 1991. Having Twins: A Parent’s Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Early Childhood (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

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