Our Chief Education Officer, Barbara Isaacs, discusses how the arrival of a new baby can affect the whole family.

The arrival of a new baby is welcomed by the whole family with real joy and excitement, that is, provided you are not one of the siblings. If you are the first born it means that your privileged position of receiving the full attention from your adoring parents is suddenly undermined by the attention given to the baby. 

Each child reacts to this fundamental change to their life in a different way – some become withdrawn, sad or very cross. Some display their feelings in an extreme way such as trying to harm their sibling whilst others seem to be absolutely fine on the surface – however the arrival of a sibling will have a significant impact on the child’s emotional well-being. This is often likened to our partner bringing a new partner to live with the family. As adults we would find this really challenging so it is not a surprise that children also react to this change in their circumstances.

Often, parents themselves are not prepared for the transformation of their beloved child. And so, at the time when the older sibling or siblings need much reassurance they suddenly become scrutinised in a critical manner. The presence of a grandparent or a close friend can be a real bonus to the family and give an opportunity to indulge the older children who are in need of pampering. I remember how much I have appreciated friends who brought presents for our daughter rather than her newly arrived brother.

At the time when the mum needs time to get to know her new baby, the role of the second parent also changes. It is an opportunity to offer the older children special outings, cook meals together, have fun in the park or garden or sit quietly sharing a book or a game or watching a film. It will become apparent very quickly, that the new arrival is a person in their own right, with their likes and dislikes and that they are very different to the other children in the family.  Cherishing each child for their individual gifts and celebrating their uniqueness rather than comparing them would be my advice to all parents facing this challenging dilemma.