Small children may or may not be excited about the arrival of a new sibling. To help start things off on the right foot, it can be a good idea to prepare them early. That can mean sharing the progress of pregnancy—to the extent that children can understand—and letting them help with preparations for the new baby. Children may also be interested in hearing about their own baby experiences and seeing pictures or videos of themselves as babies.
Once your newborn is home, older children may need special attention from parents or other adults to help cope with the change in the household structure. The overall goal is to help make sure your children don’t feel like they’re having to compete for your time and attention as much as possible. Keep in mind, there’s not always a perfect balance, and you probably won’t always get it just right. As with most issues in parenting, do the best you can, and try to take any challenges in stride.
Depending on your adoption situation, your new family member could be very different from your children who have lived with you for a long time or those you gave birth to. For instance, an older child adopted from foster care likely had very different experiences than a child raised in the same, predictable home for their entire lives. There can be layers of adjustment required and it can take time and a lot of thoughtful effort on the part of parents.
Resident children can often feel as though they aren’t getting enough attention. As their parent, you can take steps to help them by including them in family discussions, spending time with children one-on-one, and providing outlets for them to honestly talk about their feelings and experiences.1
When the new sibling is from a different race or culture, you’ll need to lean even more on education and empathy. It can be important for the entire family to learn about race and culture and talk about it openly. Learning to fight racism and discrimination can often be a key part of the process. It can require commitment from parents to model behavior and attitudes that could help resident children adjust and understand their new sibling’s experiences.2