And Baby Makes Four…How to make your only child a happy sibling | by Kristen Bason


Posted on Tue, Nov 13, 2012

Having a baby is intimidating; add to the mix a suspicious sibling and that trip home from the hospital is even more nerve wracking.

According to Dr. Maureen Snelling with Littleton Pediatric Medical Center in Highlands Ranch, it’s realistic to expect jealousy from your only child. She says that the jealousy will typically manifest itself as anger directed at their parents in the form of tantrums and extreme sensitivity.

“The first two months tend to be the worst, but it can come and go for almost six months,” she says.

Some children may take their anger out on their new sibling. While this behavior is disconcerting, Dr. Snelling says that it’s normal. She cautions parents to not leave their young child alone with the new baby until they are well adjusted to the change.

Experts recommend talking to your older child and explaining their new role in the family. It helps to emphasize all the positive aspects of being “big,” including going to school, playing with friends, eating ice cream, and helping Mommy and Daddy.

“Some siblings also really like the teacher role, so you can talk about how as the baby grows, they can help the baby learn new things,” says Dr. Liesl Young, a pediatrician with Pediatrics 5280 in Centennial.

Regression is another normal behavior. According to Dr. Young, some toddlers start to take on infant-like mannerisms. Older children, and even teens, may become withdrawn.

“Listen to your kids, be patient,” emphasizes Dr. Young. “Let them talk about their feelings and know that this transition time is only temporary.”

How to Prep Your Only Child about Becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister:

  • Make sure you tell your child about the new baby at the same time you tell family/friends so that they hear it from you
  • Look for sibling classes at the hospital
  • Take your child with you to prenatal visits so they can hear the heartbeat, etc.
  • Visit friends with new babies
  • Show your child their baby pictures/ videos and tell stories about what he/she was like as a baby.
  • Let your older child participate in preparation for the baby – picking out name, clothes, decorating the nursery, etc.
  • Talk realistically about what the baby will be like as a newborn (eats often, sleeps a lot, cries, can’t quite play yet, etc.)

Help Your Toddler Become a Better Sibling:

  • Monitor Their Whereabouts – A baby should never be left alone in any area where other young children – or pets – have unrestricted access to him or her.
  • Teach Appropriate Touch – Help your child understand that babies need to be handled with care. You can teach your toddler gentle touch using a “pretend baby,” such as a doll. Practice with your toddler. When he or she consistently displays good behavior with the doll, reward with more baby time.
  • Catch Them Being Good – “Baby bucks” can be a reward system for your toddler’s good behavior with the baby. Each buck a child earns for good behavior can be turned in for a reward or treat. The rewards should be directly linked to your toddler’s behavior with the baby.

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