Gender and Sibling Rivalry Before Baby is Born

The arrival of a new baby in the house can be a wonderful and joyous experience. However, for families who already have one or more children, the arrival of a new baby can also signify the arrival of an unwanted bundle – sibling rivalry. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to help to prepare your older child or children before and after the new baby arrives.

Sibling rivalry is often characterized either by acting out or even regression by older siblings. A toddler, for example, might pick back up some of his baby-like habits, such as wanting a bottle or a pacifier, or even losing ground on potty training. A child might even become aggressive, and act out violently against himself, the new baby, or other friends or family members.

To help prepare your child for a new baby, make sure to talk with them when you discover you are pregnant. You want your child to hear it from you, not from someone else, that there will be a new baby in the house.

If the new baby will be sharing a room with a sibling, try to get the room set up a couple of months before the birth so that the older child has time to adjust. If your toddler will be moving from her crib to a toddler bed, try to do this early as well.
Take your child or children with you on a prenatal visit, if possible. This can help them to be more comfortable with the whole process. Many hospitals also offer classes for the new big sister or big brother; take advantage of these.

Help your child to understand what it will be like when the new baby arrives. Explain that the baby won’t be able to be a playmate for quite a while. Explain that many times, because the baby is not as grown up as your other children, that the baby might have to have more attention from mom and dad for a while.

Once the new baby arrives, make sure that you have one-on-one time for your older children as well. Even just a few minutes a day can help to overcome feelings of jealousy and neglect. Also, talk with you your older child about his feelings, and help him to say how he feels. Be clear that it is never OK to hurt anyone, including themselves. In time, you will be able to make your older children partners with you in the baby’s care.