How to Help Your Firstborn Adapt to Baby

Worried that the new baby is going to upset your older child? Take simple steps now to help them be the best of friends.

No Longer the Baby

redheaded boy crossing arms and looking at mom's pregnant belly

When I was pregnant with my second child, my biggest concern wasn't my horrible morning sickness or decorating the nursery. It was how my then 2 1/2-year-old daughter would feel about our new addition and if I could ward off sibling rivalry before my son even arrived. And I know I'm not alone.

Whether you're about to add a child to your family or already have two (or more) squabbling kids, how they get along is probably on your mind. "Though sibling rivalry is natural (and inevitable), being proactive in those early days and years can have a big impact on your children's relationship down the road," says Laurie Kramer, PhD, professor of applied family studies and director of the Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

At the heart of sibling rivalry is the fact that brothers and sisters have to share their parents' love and attention as well as space and possessions. They're also figuring out their place in the family and concerned about fair treatment and control. The good news? "Eventually, your children learn to adapt to one another and share their parents with each other," says T. Berry Brazelton, MD, author of Understanding Sibling Rivalry: The Brazelton Way (Perseus Books). Here are 15 ways (some of them simple) to help make that happen.

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