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Words to live by Parenting

Words to live by

Quick scripts to help a big sibling feel included after a new family member arrives.

Ask for help

When your baby needs something, invite your firstborn to help, suggests Laura Markham, PhD, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life. “She needs to know that she has an important role to play as big sister and that she is not being left out.”

Say the right thing: “Your brother is fussing. I wonder what he needs? He’s just been fed and burped. Do you want to help me sing to him?”

Give thanks
If she fetches a pacifier or throws away a diaper, acknowledge her assistance with gratitude. “Your child will glow with pride as she learns that part of becoming a big sister is being able to contribute in new ways to the family,” promises Markham.

Say the right thing: “Thank you for getting these wipes. This is just what I needed, and it was so helpful for me to not have to get up.”

Explain what’s happening
“When you have to leave your child to pick up the baby, put it in context,” recommends Markham. Offering an enthusiastic explanation can help mitigate resentment.

Say the right thing: “There’s the baby. He’s waking up. … He wants to play with you! Let’s go get him!”

Be supportive
Despite your efforts, your firstborn will likely feel negative toward your new addition at some point. “Acknowledge it, accept it, and let her know such feelings are OK to share with you,” suggests Markham.

Say the right thing: “You wonder if we can send him back? … No, sweetie, he’s part of our family now just like you and me and dad. … I know that isn’t the answer you wanted, and sometimes it’s hard to get used to this big change. … You can always tell me if you’re feeling like this, and I will always understand.”

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