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Navigating the Transition: Helping an Older Sibling Adjust to a New Baby

Navigating the Transition: Helping an Older Sibling Adjust to a New Baby

by Susie Beghin, RECE, Founder of Alpha’s Discovery Kids


As both a mom and an early childhood educator, I understand the challenges families face when welcoming a new baby into the home. The arrival of a new sibling can be an exciting yet challenging time for older children, especially when it comes to adjusting to the changes in their daily routine and family dynamics. At Alpha’s Discovery Kids, we’re committed to supporting families at every stage of their journey, providing guidance and assistance to help children and parents navigate this transition with ease.

It’s not uncommon for children to experience a range of emotions during this time, and these feelings often manifest in their behavior at daycare. From regression in previously mastered skills to attention-seeking behaviors and separation anxiety, the changes happening at home can significantly affect a child’s behaviour and well-being in the daycare environment.

Here are five common observations we see in the daycare setting:

1.Child Regression in Skills:

  • Children may regress in skills they’ve previously mastered. For example, a child who was once independent at nap time may suddenly need more help falling asleep.

2. Attention-Seeking Behavior:

  • Some children may exhibit attention-seeking behavior in negative ways, such as whining, hitting, or biting, to garner more attention.

3. Separation Anxiety:

  • Older siblings may experience strong separation anxiety at drop-off time, even if they’ve previously adjusted well to daycare.

4. Reluctance to Attend Daycare:

  • Children may express a desire to stay at home with the parent rather than attending daycare.

5. Engagement in “Baby Talk”:

  • Children may revert to “baby talk” even if they can speak in full sentences.

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It’s crucial for parents to communicate these changes with their daycare teachers. Understanding the child’s situation at home enables us to provide the best support and assistance at daycare.

Here are some strategies you can try to help children adjust to the change:

Acknowledge the Child’s Feelings:

  • Validating the child’s emotions is crucial. Let them know that it’s okay to feel sad, mad, or jealous about the new addition to the family. For example, you might say, “It’s hard to be a big sister! You sometimes feel sad or mad that mom and dad are busy with your little brother.”

Acknowledge Good Behavior:

  • Children often seek attention, even if it’s negative. Instead of focusing on negative behavior, emphasize and praise positive behavior. For instance, you might say, “I like how you helped your little brother with his bath this morning,” or “I appreciate how you waited patiently for me to finish talking on the phone before you came to ask me something.” Specific praise encourages the child to repeat desirable behavior.

Avoid Making Big Changes:

  • It’s advisable to avoid making other significant changes during this time. For instance, hold off on starting potty training or weaning. Minimizing changes can help the child adjust more smoothly.

Continue Treating the Child According to Their Age and Skill Level:

  • If you notice regression in the child’s behavior, it’s essential to continue treating them according to their age and skill level. Offer opportunities for age-appropriate activities to help them build and maintain their skills.

With patience, understanding, and support, both parents and children can navigate this transition successfully. Enjoy this special time by spending extra one-on-one time with each other as well as quality time together as a family!

For video content on this topic and similar early childhood topics, visit our YouTube channel.