To celebrate the addition of Ruby’s Baby Brother to our family of books, we asked you, our community, for tips and tricks for helping older children adjust to the addition of a new sibling to their families. We crowdsourced advice from our Facebook page and our Living Barefoot Forums, and got some great advice from you.
Of course, every family and every situation is different! Many of these suggestions revolve around new babies, but many are also applicable to families who are adopting or bringing new children into their lives through other means as well. We hope you enjoy this fantastic advice from the Barefoot community!
- The tip we heard over and over again is this: get the big sibling(s) involved! Ambassador Amber Guillet of Barefoot Book Adventures with Amber suggests letting older kids pick out clothes for the new sibling to wear. Jaz Martell, who works in our Oxford Studio (and is also a member of Ambassador team Stepping Barefoot!) said she and her family made matching tie-dyed t-shirts for everyone, including the new baby, to help reinforce the idea of welcoming a new player to their team.
- Barefoot community member Julia Wylie Florey suggests letting big-sibs-to-be roleplay. They can try changing diapers and comforting an upset baby using baby dolls—regardless of the gender of the children.
- Community member Ruth Barron chimed in with this great suggestion: instruct siblings on the proper way to touch a baby before the baby is born. Repeating simple lessons like Do you touch baby’s eyes? No. Do you touch baby’s head? Yes, gently. This can prevent panicked instruction after the baby has arrived.
- Hospitals and medical situations can be scary for anyone! Take a page from Ambassador Christine Long’s book and bring your older children along for prenatal visits. This will help get them used to the medical environment, and will give them a chance to see the baby growing via ultrasounds.
- When Barefoot’s Global Marketing and Production Associate Stephanie Thomas was born, her parents gave her big brother a huge stuffed puppy, and told him it was a present from the baby. He couldn’t believe her generosity! A gift from the baby could help curb any jealousy older siblings might be feeling.
- Ambassador (and mother of six!) Stephanie Bowe had the great idea to task older kids with choosing which book to read to the baby while it is nursing or being fed. What better way to bond as a family than over a beloved book? She reports that giving older siblings jobs of their own to help with the baby is a great way to keep them occupied and feeling important.
- Ambassador Amanda Sharp wrote in to suggest setting time aside every day, even just for a little while, to connect without the younger sibling around. One-on-one time with older siblings can really help maintain family harmony. Clever Ambassador Amanda Finn suggests talking to the baby while the big kid is in earshot, and telling the baby that you need to put him or her down for a bit so that you can play or help out with the big sibling for a while. Baby is too little to understand what you are saying, but it will make older siblings feel like they are still a priority.
- Barefoot community member Ashley Lindberg warns parents to be mindful to avoid using the new sibling as an excuse not to do what needs to be done with older children. Instead, focus on helping big siblings learn new skills to become more independent.
- Leah Lesser, Director of Communications at the Barefoot Books Cambridge office, gave us this very important tip: If you find yourself struggling with the transition into being a parent of multiple children, don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care provider. Postpartum depression is a very common condition, and can even strike parents who never experienced it with their other children. Dads and other caretakers can experience it too.
- And of course, reading books about new siblings, like Ruby’s Baby Brother, can really help children (and grown-ups!) visualize the changes that are afoot. (Is there anything a good book can’t do?)
What advice do you have for families preparing to bring a new sibling into the mix? Please share your ideas in the comments! And for a great place to discuss family issues like this, be sure to check out our Living Barefoot Forums.
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