Family Dynamics: How to Prepare an Only-Child for a Sibling

Picture this…

You have been in a committed relationship with your spouse for about two years now. You enjoy sharing hobbies, talking about your hopes/dreams together, enjoying downtime at home and each other’s undivided attention. One day your husband or wife comes home and says “in nine months, I am going to get another little wife! You two will be best of friends. She will share your room, take all your clothes that are too small for you, be very loud/needy, and will commandeer many of your household items for herself. Aren’t you excited to be a big wife??”

That would most likely be met with a resounding “Um, NO!” followed by “do I get any say in this??”

We can overlook or dismiss the impact of introducing a new member as a dynamic into an already intact family unit. What are some ways we can help prepare only-children for the birth of a new sibling, or the merging of another mbermily meem through a second marriage, or even the adoption of another child? Here are some practical tips to ease them into the transition of their “new normal.”

  1. The Introduction

    Keep it neutral. That means don’t be fishing or trying to lead into the feeling you wish the only-child was having with questions like “aren’t you soooo excited to meet XYZ?” or “how does it feel to be a big brother?”

    Neutrality can also be in physical ways - if it is a new baby being introduced have them in the bassinet when the older child walks into the room, instead of having mom or dad holding them. If the kids are older, have the setting be in a place they don’t feel obligated to sit and talk, but can run outside and play (like an outdoor water fountain or playground)

  2. Allow space for feelings

    It may take time for everyone to come to terms with this dynamic. As the parent or guardian you can say “It is okay to feel whatever you are feeling. I want to hear about it all. I am a safe space for you.”

  3. Reassure everyone that you are always a family

    No matter what changes, the one thing that is constant is your love for one another. Love GROWS and doesn’t shrink/divide. You have enough love to go around to everybody!

This can always be more nuanced as other factors such as divorce, substance abuse, or other reasonings for the family merging can be present, so should you need a professional family counselor to assist, please feel free to reach out and book an appointment.