A new sibling can have a big impact on your family. Understand how to prepare your older child, introduce the new baby and encourage a healthy sibling bond.

Why is it hard for an older child to adjust to a new baby?

For a child who is used to getting all the attention, a new sibling can seem like competition. The older child may feel left out and pressured to grow up, which can create short-term and long-term problems for both siblings and parents. As a parent, it might be challenging to give both children the amount and the type of attention they need. However, there are several ways to make your entire children feel valued. There are many things that can contribute to a difficult adjustment: •    Research indicates that a child’s personality has the most effect on how they react to a new baby. •    Children with the closest relationships with their mothers show the most upset after the baby is born. •    Children with a close relationship with their father seem to adjust better. •    Your child’s developmental stage may affect how well they can share your attention. Often two-year-olds have lots of trouble getting used to a new baby, because their needs for time and closeness from their parents are still great. •    Stress on the family can make your older child’s adjustment harder. Involve your older children before the baby is born.  Start by talking to your older child about the upcoming arrival of his or her new sibling. Show your older child your growing abdomen or ask him or her to help you collect baby supplies or set up the baby's nursery. You might also check into sibling preparation classes at a local hospital.  Explain to your older child that the new baby will probably eat, sleep and cry most of the time. The baby won't be a playmate right away. To minimize the stress your child might experience once the new baby arrives, think ahead. If your child will need to change rooms or move out of the crib to make space for the new baby, do so before the baby is born. This will give your older child a chance to get used to the new setup before dealing with the other changes associated with the baby's arrival. If possible, complete your older child's toilet training before the baby is born. Otherwise, wait until a few months after you bring your baby home to start the process. Arrange for your older child's care during your time in the hospital or birth center, and let your child know what to expect. Keep the introduction simple. When your firstborn comes to meet her new sibling in the hospital, limit it to immediate family. We had grandparents, etc., there who all wanted to see our daughter's reaction. It was way too much for her with Mommy being in a different, weird place and so many people around. She was interested at first, but then things got crazy and she had a fit. I also suggest not doing it when your child is hungry or tired, our second mistake. My son had just turned 2 when my daughter was born, and I was very nervous about how he would react to a sibling. At the hospital we gave him a toy ''from the baby,'' and I made sure not to be holding the baby when he walked into the hospital room so I could hug him and make a big deal of him being a big brother. Once at home, I tried to keep up things in our routine that he really enjoyed, such as reading a few books after breakfast and going on play dates. Accept their feelings. My advice is to accept your firstborn's feelings. I would be awfully annoyed if my husband brought another wife or my children brought another mama into our house and asked me to love her, especially if she wasn't any fun to be around. In my humble opinion, once your older child learns that he or she will not lose your love, a relationship will develop between the children and just might bloom. When your second baby was born, your firstborn was ''dethroned,'' so to speak. He's not the center of your universe anymore. That's a pretty hard concept for a child to grasp, let alone articulate. For example, he might say he hates the baby. Don't tell him that he doesn't, because that tells him his feelings don't count. Instead, sympathize with him. And spend some extra one-on-one time with him. When my 4-year-old tells me that her little sister gets on her nerves, I tell her, ''Yes, and sometimes she gets on my nerves too, but we still love her a whole bunch and have to be nice to each other in this family.'' This way she understands that it's okay to not particularly like someone all the time — and that the baby isn't going anywhere. I also make a point of telling her what a wonderful big sister she is when she is being nice to the baby. Remind your child that he or she was a new baby once. Using age-appropriate and positive words, tell your child about his or her birth and what made it special. This will reassure your child of his or her importance to you, and help to make it clear why you're so excited about the new baby. Keep the child's daily routines as normal as possible before, during, and after the birth. Try to keep a sense of normalcy so your child will not feel like the new baby is changing everything. Especially try to avoid major upheavals such as potty-training or a new childcare situation right before or after the birth. Figure out positive ways for your child to interact with the baby. Your child can hold the baby (even toddlers can do this under close supervision, sitting down, with the baby on a pillow in the child's lap), sing to the new baby, try to ''teach'' the baby to smile, read to the new baby, and so on. As much as you possibly can, ignore or overlook behavior that's unwelcoming and negative - the very last thing you want to do is to teach your older child that your precious attention and time can be obtained just as easily by pinching the baby or by saying ''I hate the baby'' as by offering to bring the baby a clean diaper. Try talking to the baby about the older child when the older child is nearby, e.g., ''Baby, look what your smart big brother did, he tied his own shoes/made his own bed/found the remote for me'' and ''Baby, when you grow up, Big Sister can show you how to play Candy land.'' Don't *always* drop what you're doing as soon as the baby cries. Many many many times your older children will have to wait while you take care of the baby. Every once in a while, make the baby wait. Do fun things alone with your older child, especially if you do things with just the baby. If you're taking a mother-and-baby exercise class, for example, make a point of doing something special with your older child about equally often. This will help your child see that there's still time for just the two of you. Even a trip to the grocery story without the baby can be fun for your older child if you're not too exhausted to be nice. Do fun things as a family. Your child will naturally resent the baby if he or she feels the baby is preventing your family from doing fun things together. Show your child that the new baby is part of the family - this is important because young children sometimes do not understand that the baby is here to stay - by planning family outings where you can bring the baby along to share in the fun. Pay individual attention: Regardless of your older child's age, make sure that he or she gets individual attention from you and other loved ones when the new baby arrives. If you're taking pictures or videos, include your older child. Take some pictures or videos of him or her alone, as well as with the new baby. Consider having a few small gifts on hand to give to your older child in case friends visit with gifts for the new baby. When all is said and done, remind yourself and the kids (they'll understand someday) that being a sibling is one of the most important and sacred relationships. Besides, when you sit around the dinner table 20 years down the road, what will you laugh about if the older kid doesn't throw some sort of parent-embarrassing fit or try to poke the younger kid's eyes out every five minutes?