When people think about relationships among siblings, the first word that often springs to mind is 'rivalry'. To be honest, that conception isn't entirely wrong; siblings can end up competing for their parents' attention.
As a parent, you can set the tone to foster relationships that are loving, supportive and cooperative instead of competitive. Here’s how to prepare your child for the arrival of a new baby brother or sister.
Tell your child before telling the neighbours
It's best for your child to hear the news about a new baby from you, rather than from someone else. The best bet is probably to time your conversation for shortly before you tell your friends. That way, your child won't accidentally spill the beans before you're ready.
Enjoy your 'big boy' or 'big girl'
Even if you weren't expecting a second child, it would still be important to celebrate all the ways your first-born is growing. Moving from a bottle to solid food, from nappies to underpants – all of these milestones show that your child is growing up. As children grow, it's important to show them how proud you are that they're growing into 'big boys' or 'big girls'. This can prepare them for seeing themselves as 'big brothers' or 'big sisters'.
Time your transitions
In some cases, you might want to space your children's transitions. For example, you may not want to move your older child into a new bedroom and the baby into the 'old' room at the same time, so your first-born doesn't feel like she's being replaced. If the timing works out, it's a great opportunity to show your pride in both children's growth.
Let them help
As you already know, babies require a lot of work and attention, and there are many ways in which a big brother or sister can help. Your first-born can talk or sing to the baby, help with bottles or when you change nappies, and so on. When you find ways to let your first-born help, you're sending him several important messages: that you trust him, that he can take an active role, that part of being a big brother is taking care of a younger sibling and that you're all in this together.
One common worry among first-born children is that a new baby will replace them in your heart. From time to time (both before and after the baby arrives),make sure to tell (and show) your first-born that you'll always love him just the same.
Set the tone for other adults
Along with reassuring your first-born, be careful that other well-meaning adults don't accidentally undermine your efforts. Discourage comments or jokes implying that the new baby will somehow replace your first child, or that you’re going to be too busy to show him love and attention.