What can I do to make my 10 & 12 year old stepsons accept their new baby sister?
Q: I am having a baby girl. How can I help 10 & 12 year old stepsons not feel left out?
A: Half the job is already done, because having a kind-hearted concern that the older kids--even a big lout like a 12 year old--might feel left out of the excitement is really the key to helping the older youngsters feel loved and appreciated even amidst the arrival of the little new-comer.
Put Dad to work minding that adorable new baby, so you have the freedom each day to reach out individually to each of the older boys as a good listener to whatever might be on their minds. Show these older brothers that you love them, you respect them, and you are eager to keep up with their schoolwork, their friends, and their ups and downs. Think small: a hug, a cookie, and ten minutes of discussing their favorite action movie can be more meaningful for them than a whole hoopla of "planned" activities.
Get these older guys involved in cuddling and playing with the little sister from the start--even if they look sheepish and they aren't much actual help. Naturally, at first most of your attention will be focused on you and your infant, as a twosome. But including the whole family at moments every day will help them feel part of the action.
Some feelings of jealousy and sadness are natural for older children in this situation, so tolerance and empathy will help you and them to find the right balance with the newcomer.
Elizabeth Berger MD
Child Psychiatrist and author of "Raising Kids with Character"
Answered by Dr. Elizabeth Berger