New baby, reluctant sibling

How to help your older child prepare emotionally for a new baby

Q: I’m expecting my second child and my six-year-old is not happy about it. I’m very worried about how she will react when the baby comes. How do I help her?

A: It is often harder for older children to adjust to the idea of sharing their parents than it would be for a toddler. After all, they’ve had a longer time to be the main focus of your time and attention. Older children are also more cognitively aware of how this change in their family constellation will affect them. Your daughter’s disinterest may be her way of protecting herself from having to deal with what will likely be some pretty intense emotions.

How children react to the birth of a sibling depends a great deal on their own temperament. An easygoing, flexible child has an easier time than a child who is sensitive to any disruption in routine. Understanding your daughter’s temperament will be important in helping her cope with the upcoming change in her daily life.

You might try to engage her interest by soliciting her opinion or involvement in non-threatening ways. Start by attempting to get her interested in babies. Look at her old baby pictures and talk a bit about what she was like as a baby. Then see if you can elicit some interest in decorating the new baby’s room or picking out clothes the baby might wear. If your daughter remains disinterested, don’t push her. Respect where she’s at and continue building a strong relationship with her. Let her know you and she are still going to have lots of time together. Make some longer-term plans that are clearly going to occur after the baby is born.

This article was originally published in September 2011.

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