How to talk about: The arrival of a new sibling

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.

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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.

So why are you having another baby?

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.

So why did you have a baby?

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) –

  • Why do you think we’re having another baby?
  • What do you think is the best number of people in a family?
  • How do you know that when two people love each other?
  • Did you know that you exist because of the love/connection/desire we have for each other?

Routine matters

Routine and consistency are really helpful for kids at the best of times, but 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, and 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.

Here are some questions that you could ask –

  • When do you feel the happiest?
  • What is your favourite place to go to with me?
  • What is your favourite part of the day?
  • When do you know that I love you the most?
  • If there was one part of your day that could be exactly the same every day, what part would it be

This is a time to focus on connection

The best way to prevent your children from feeling ignored over the initial days and weeks of a new bundle of joy taking up residence in their house, is to make a plan.

Figure out how you can structure in 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 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 you doing puzzles with them, or you kicking a ball in the backyard, or you 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.

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

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 family thrive in life.

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About Author

James Beck

James Beck is our Kaihanga o Ngā Mea/Content Director. He’s been part of our team for 10 years now. James started his time here as an Attitude presenter and has reached over 200,000 people in schools, prisons and workplaces all over the country. You may have caught him on radio, TV or even read one of his many articles. James has also recently authored a (very funny) children’s book, Eliza Loves Rocks. Anyone who’s heard James speak will remember him for his unique sense of humour, which he credits his rural upbringing for. It has been a key to helping him connect with people from all walks of life. James is passionate about helping people reach their full potential.

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