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How to talk about: The arrival of a new sibling


James Beck (James Beck is the Parenting Place's Kaihanga o Ngā Mea/Content Director. He’s been part of the Parenting Place team for 10 years starting his time as an Attitude presenter reaching more than 200,000 people in schools, prisons and workplaces all over the country.)

I’m six months into the arrival of baby number three. We’re outnumbered and we’re loving it. We’ve gone through the process of adding another sibling to the family twice now.

And while we haven’t got it all worked out, we’ve learned a few things that might be helpful as you welcome another mini-me to your tribe. One of the things I noticed early on was that most information online focused on how to talk to your older children about how babies are made.

Lots of “Here’s the ‘right’ information about sex that you need to deliver in the ‘right’ way or you’ll mess them up forever.” Okay, an exaggeration there. But it feels like people spend lots of time trying to work out how to explain where babies come from and much less time explaining to their kids why they’re having another one.

Babies are the result of connection

Not everyone plans their babies. And sometimes it can be daunting and a big surprise when you find out that you’re going to be a parent. For the majority of people, a baby is made/created/conceived as a result of the love/connection/desire that exists between them. It’s crazy to think that out of this comes a human that is half-you, half-them.

We also know relationships are tricky, and the love that existed then may not exist now. Even in that situation, the child was made because of connection and desire, and that’s an incredible thing for a child to know.

It provides a firm foundation for building a robust sense of self-worth.

Answering the questions about where babies come from can help a child to understand the mechanics and biology of a new human, which is helpful. But helping a child to understand why you’re having a baby can give them a beautiful understanding of their own existence. Deep in their identity they can know they’re the result of love, and that this new baby is too.

Here are some Questions you could ask your kid(s):

Routine and consistency are really helpful for kids at the best of times, and especially when they are going through a significant change – like the arrival of a new sibling.
Find out what your kids love doing with you and your partner, then work as a team to keep as many of those things as you can constant while your family is adjusting. It might be as simple as making sure you prioritise really connecting with each child at the end of the day as you’re saying goodnight.

This is a time to focus on connection.

The best way to prevent your children feeling ignored in the initial days and weeks of a new bundle of joy taking up residence in their house, is to make a plan. It’s the little things we do that often create connection.

Figure out how you can structure time to connect with them. Ask your kids what they most enjoy doing with you. After they’ve tried to get you to buy a radio-controlled unicorn or take a trip to the dairy, they’ll start to say the things that they genuinely enjoy doing with you. What they say may surprise you. Sometimes we think our kids feel more loved if we go on a big holiday, or if we let them grow a rat’s tail, or if we build them a rocking horse using old beer cans.

But for children (and most humans actually), it’s the little things we do that often create connection. Maybe they love the way you make toast, or the songs that you sing to them at night, or your doing puzzles with them, or your kicking a ball in the backyard, or your taking them to school. It’s the little things that you do often.

When you’ve only got one kid, you and your partner can share the load. When it’s two kids, it’s a one-to-one ratio. But when you hit more than two you’re outnumbered, and that means you have to be intentional about connecting with each of your kids.

What is your favourite part of the day?

Being intentional about connection doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. Here are a few things you could do with your kids while they adjust to their new sibling –

Play at the park
Got to a sports game
Read your books in your bed
Head to MacDonalds for ice cream
Feed some ducks
Go for a bike ride
Build a hut made of blankets
Watch a movie together
Go swimming at the local pool
Have a technology-free hot chocolate date at a local café
Go for a drive to the hills of the beach
Go for a walk together

Change can create disconnection, but it doesn’t have to. It can actually be an opportunity for even greater connection, and we know that kids who feel deeply connected to their families thrive in life.