Whilst a new son or daughter brings many changes to the lives of family members, it can be a particularly radical change for a young sibling – especially if they were the only child.

There is much pre-birth preparation which takes up a lot of time, and once the new-born has arrived, they will naturally receive the lion’s share of attention as they’re cared for during those first busy months of life.

As a result, this can be a difficult time for an older sibling to handle. They may feel envious and go to extra lengths to draw more attention towards themselves.

So what can you do? Here are some of our top tips to make it easier:

Pre-birth preparation

It’s important to involve your child during pregnancy to prepare them for what is ahead.  If you explain that a new brother or sister is on the way, they may take an interest and start asking questions which you can use to build involvement.

It helps to make them feel included in the process, which you can do by requesting their assistance in related activities, such as preparing a hospital bag or shopping for essential items. You could even take them when you go to the doctor so they can hear the baby’s heartbeat.

By giving them a feeling of involvement and responsibility, they can feel more appreciated in their role as the older brother or sister.

Timing around childbirth

The effect of a new baby in the family can be amplified if it provides a sudden change to the routine of your existing child. Whilst this can’t be helped entirely, it’s certainly worth ensuring that any big changes are staged more gradually, and that any major upcoming milestones are dealt with before the due date if possible. For example, if you need to change their bedroom or move them to a different room, do it at least a few weeks or months before the baby arrives so they’re already used to it by then.

Whilst this is undoubtedly tricky to do when a new baby is on its way, it helps if the transition of the routine between pre and post childbirth is as seamless as possible, with any changes affecting the child being spread out across the months surrounding childbirth as opposed to happening all at once.

Plus, don’t forget to keep them involved during this time and explain what is happening to maintain their sense of importance to the family.

Post-childbirth

Once the baby is home, continue to involve the older sibling where possible. If they want to help with caring for the baby, encourage this and show gratitude for their efforts. Even though this may cause certain tasks to be more time-consuming, it can be very helpful if the child builds a sense of pride when playing their part in looking after their younger brother or sister. Plus, if they’re passing you items or entertaining the baby during a nappy change, their contribution may come in rather useful!

One way to encourage this even more is reading this personalised book with them, and they all help to solidify the role the older sibling will take in being the best big brother or sister they can be!

Another essential aspect is to ensure that the older sibling gets enough one-on-one time with a parent each day. Even if it’s just a short period of time due to a busy schedule, they will appreciate it when they are the centre of attention and can talk about things they are most interested in.

If they want to talk about the baby, then do so, but if they want to change the topic and focus on something personal, such as their favourite toy or what has happened in school, then encourage this as well. Make this special time all about them.

With a new baby this can, of course, be quite difficult to do, so rely on other family members as well to give the older child some one-on-one time. For example, aunties, uncles or grandparents can take them out in fun places they would like to go. This also gives you the added bonus of some alone time where you can concentrate on the baby, or even have a moment to completely unwind if they’re asleep!