If you relied only on the Torah’s view of life with siblings, you’d get a pretty skewed idea of shalom bayit (peace in the home). Think about the most famous sibling stories we tell: Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel, Joseph and his brothers, just to name a few. These aren’t picture-perfect sibling relationships by any means.
Luckily, good sibling relationships can turn into lifelong friendships. Siblings are playmates, companions, and confidantes, and often are the people we turn to first for guidance and support.
If your family is anticipating the arrival of a younger brother or sister to older siblings, here are some planning tips, books, videos, and resources that might help you prepare.
How to Prepare
Getting ready to be an older sibling means different things depending on the child's age. In general, using honest, age-appropriate language to talk about what's happening is most important. Here are some additional tips by age range.
For kids ages 1-2
When younger chidlren are going to become older siblings, spend some time looking at picture books of babies and children together. It also helps to set aside time to be and play together, and then continue this routine after the baby arrives. Some families offer the older child something that's special and unique to them, which might mean a gift or alone time with a grandparent or other relative.
For kids ages 2-4
If older siblings are in preschool, you can begin to involve preschool-age children in the planning process. This can help avoid some of the jealousy that arises, although jealousy is a perfectly natural emotion for a big change like this. Show your older children photos of when they were babies, if you have them. It also helps if you have friends and extended family members the older children can spend time with. At this age, you can expect a little regression with things like potty training or sleeping through the night. Again, this behavior is normal, and you can continue to celebrate milestones with praise and one-on-one attention.
For kids 5 and older
Kindergartners can help with the preparation in more hands-on ways, like organizing the baby's room and helping pick out diapers and clothes. If you're welcoming a newborn at the hospital, school-age childen can also come visit and meet the baby fairly soon, depending on the hospital's policies and your own preferences. This helps make sure older children feel like they're a part of the growing family. You can also give older children special roles at home; with your help, they can hold the baby, help clean up baby toys, and take on other chores and responsibilities.
One way your children can learn what it means to have other children in the house is by reading about what it might be like. Here are some PJ Library selections about babies and family life.
Recommended for ages 6 months to 2
Everyone can take part in tikkun olam (repairing the world). Petting a puppy, sharing snacks, and helping someone who has fallen down all help make the world a little better.
Recommended for ages 2 to 3
In this exuberant board book, many different families are shown in happy activity, from an early-morning wake-up to a kiss before bed.
Recommended for ages 3 to 6
In this beloved tale from Eastern Europe, a distraught man discovers a positive attitude for dealing with the overcrowding in his small home.
Recommended for ages 3 to 6
Todd Parr's colorful book celebrates the love we feel for our families and all the different varieties they come in.
Recommended for ages 5 to 6
Mira’s wish for a baby in the family comes true, but who knew how much noise she would make? No matter what Mira and her parents do, the baby’s reaction is WAAAA. On the day of her simchat bat (Jewish welcoming ceremony for a baby girl) Mira finallyfinds the answer to all the wailing!
Recommended for ages 7 to 8
In this contemporary take on a beloved Jewish folktale, a rabbi helps Abigail discover the wonderful aspects of her newly-blended family.
These videos offer short, but helpful, suggestions for welcoming younger siblings into your home.
How to Prepare a Toddler for a New Baby via My Jewish Mommy Life
How To Help Kids Adjust To A New Sibling via TODAY
How To Make Older Children Feel Included When a New Baby Arrives via Supernanny
Seeing Life Through a Foster Child’s Eyes via Sesame Street In Communities
A Big List of Books That Teach Kids About Getting Along at Home
Ceremonies to Welcome Babies via My Jewish Learning
Welcoming a New Sibling via Scholastic
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May 8, 2020