How to ease sibling stress when bringing home a new baby

By Counselling Directory member Wendy Gregory

As Prince William and Kate settle into their new lives as a family of five, it seems like an appropriate time to consider the challenges parents can face when they bring a new baby home. Although the occasion is usually looked forward with excitement, once you bring new baby home, it can seem as if you’re constantly trying to meet everyone else’s needs whilst feeling run down and exhausted yourself.

Something that can take us completely by surprise is the reaction of existing children to the arrival of a new brother or sister. Before the birth, they may have seemed thrilled with the prospect, but afterwards they can became sullen and withdrawn, or even openly hostile and aggressive. Tantrums, regressing to babyish behaviour such as wanting a long forgotten dummy, and other problematic behaviours may increase, which is all very difficult for you, especially if new baby is demanding. However, it is extremely common for other children to feel jealous and insecure. All of a sudden it seems as if mummy doesn’t have time for them and is always fussing over the new baby. She may even get cross with them when they try to get her attention. Just reassuring a child that you love them may not be enough and it can help to put yourself in their position. Imagine if your partner came home one day with a new woman and announced, “Look! I’ve got a lovely new wife. But don’t worry, I still love you just the same!”

So what can parents do? Maintaining normal routines as much as possible helps children feel secure. Trying to spend some time alone with them, even if it’s only ten minutes a day when baby is asleep, reading a story together or playing a game helps them to feel that they are still special to you and deserving of your attention.

If your child is openly aggressive towards the baby, try not to get angry with them as this will intensify their jealousy. Calmly explain that although you understand how they feel, hurting baby is not acceptable. Instead, try involving them by giving them little jobs, such as fetching a nappy or helping to bath baby. Finally, remind them of when they were a baby by looking at photos or videos together and telling them what a special time it was, but pointing out how much more they can do now can help them to relate to new baby and even feel a little bit superior.

Editor’s notes:

For more information, contact Amie Sparrow, amie.sparrow@counselling-directory.org.uk or on 01276580030. Alternatively you can email press@counselling-directory.org.ukArticle above available for reprint in whole or in part, please cite Wendy Gregory and link to Counselling DirectoryWendy Gregory is a counselling psychologist and writer.

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Amie Sparrow

Written by Amie Sparrow

Written by Amie Sparrow

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