When you bring Baby home, Sibling thinks it’s just so cool. They get to show off Baby to the grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. They take real pride and ownership in introducing “their” baby to the world.
However, with so much change going on already, adding the visitors into the mix can overwhelm a toddler or preschooler. They’re used to being the star of the show.
The visitors usually come to see them. Now, there’s a shift.
And the big changes that come along with that can make Sibling feel confused, unsteady, even doubtful.
Communicating with your visitors before Baby arrives is really important. In our Easy Postpartum Plan, we talk about setting boundaries and expectations for visitors in regard to parents and Baby.
Here, we’ll take it a step further and explore some rules you can give to visitors to help your older child adjust to the new baby in the house.
Rule 1 – Address Sibling Before Baby
When family and friends come to visit, make sure you let them know NOT to beeline to Baby first. Though they’re excited to get their hands on those squishy cheeks, the immediate attention to Baby can make Sibling feel unimportant, even cast aside. Addressing Sibling first with a big, excited hello and a tight squeeze can help alleviate some jealousy.
And here’s the key: they should NOT lead with conversation about the baby.
Rule 2 – Don’t Even Talk About the Baby
“Are you so excited to be a big sister/brother?!”
“I hear you have a new baby!”
“I bet you’re so good with your new little brother/sister!”
These are the things that visitors usually say when addressing Sibling. These are also the things that will make Sibling feel less important than Baby.
Instead, visitors should focus squarely on Sibling as an individual.
Comment on their cool light-up shoes. Notice their haircut. Ask what they learned in preschool this week. Invite them to tell you about their favorite activity. Have them show you their bedroom.
After Sibling gets some time to talk about themself, they’ll naturally begin to steer the conversation toward introducing the visitor Baby. Let them lead.
Rule 3 – Make Gift Giving Equal
If visitors bring a gift for Baby, they should bring one for Sibling, too. It doesn’t have to be lavish. A toy from the Target Dollar Spot is all we’re talking here.
While you can eventually teach that “fair doesn’t always mean equal,” in this early period of vulnerability, this thoughtful gesture shows your child that they haven’t been replaced.
Rule 4 – Visit Again Soon
If visitors are local to your family, have them come back in 3-4 weeks. Your home will be inundated with visitors in the first week or two, with everyone wanting to ooh, aah, and coo over baby and then leave. Then it’s like radio silence for Sibling.
Scheduling another time to visit, once Sibling realizes this baby is here to stay and is struggling to adjust to a whole new version of normal, it is helpful to have a familiar face come around and play for a while, giving them an outlet to talk about their feelings.
Visitor interactions are what sets the stage for your older child’s transition to welcoming their new little brother or sister. While it may not be a “make or break” thing, it does definitely impact this time for them. It’s their first message about what their future looks like. Asking your visitors to abide by these rules will help make your life a little easier once your child learns that this baby isn’t just a visitor, too – they’re a permanent resident.