The arrival of a new baby brings a lot of changes to a family, especially for older siblings. Change can be difficult for them to understand and adjust to, especially if they are very young. Parents can help children make this transition with some simple preparations before the baby arrives, and afterwards.
Breaking the News
If your child is very young, they may not grasp the concept of time very well. Instead of telling them the baby will come in several months, explain the baby will come around a certain holiday or season such as “the baby will arrive when it gets cold in the Fall.” Tell your child the baby is growing inside of you and show them your growing belly as pregnancy progresses.
Include older siblings in the preparation for your new baby as much as you can. Let them help decorate the nursery, pick out clothing, assist in packing your hospital bag, etc. Let your child accompany you to prenatal visits so they can hear the baby’s heartbeat and watch the ultrasound. When baby kicks, let them feel your belly! Many hospitals now have special sibling preparation classes that include simple games to play with the baby, what to expect once baby arrives, and a child-friendly tour of labor/delivery and postpartum areas.
“You Were Once a Baby Too!”
Remind children that they were once a baby too. Show them pictures of when you were pregnant with them, newborn photos, and baby clothes they once wore. Explain that when they were a baby, they required a lot of time and attention. This will help children understand that a baby is growing inside of you and will look like a little baby, just like they did when they were born.
A Special Gift
After the birth of your baby, visitors may bring gifts for your newest bundle of joy. Be sure to have a special gift wrapped and ready to give to your child. This will help them feel included and mark the occasion as a special event for them, after all, they just became a Big Brother or Big Sister! When your child comes to meet their new sibling, let them open their present. When our daughter came to meet her new baby sister, we gave her a plush bear that said, “I’m the Big Sister!” and some Big Sister books she could look at with our new baby.
A Helping Hand
A new baby is a lot of work, especially if you have other children at home, so put older siblings to work and let them help out! Older siblings can bring wipes and diapers for diaper changes, throw away dirty diapers, fetch a burp cloth, help soothe a crying baby, sing songs and play games, choose baby’s outfit, etc. They are eager to help so let them do small and simple things that will help them feel included and needed. This will teach your child responsibility and importance of caring for others as well.
Be sure to spend some quality one on one time with your child. Whether it’s a special outing to the ice cream shop, a trip to the grocery store together, or reading books at the library, let them know you value time alone with them. Your partner and you may need to trade off caring for the new baby so that you each get some alone time with your other children.
Children love to role play and play pretend. Give your child a small doll or pretend baby so that they can role play being a caregiver too. When you feed, bathe, or change the baby, older siblings can play along and do the same with their baby doll. It gives them something to do and teaches them responsibility as well.
Say “Yay” Not “Nay”
Always try to say “Yes” to your child’s requests more than “No”. If your child asks you to come play with them, instead of saying “No, I can’t right now,” say “Yes, I’d love to just as soon as the baby’s fed (or changed, or down for a nap, etc.)” This way your child hears “Yes” instead of “No” more often won’t associate negative feelings with the new baby. Praise your child for being patient and let them know you are proud of them when they help out or wait patiently for their turn.
Bringing a new baby home is always a joyous occasion. As you introduce older siblings to their new baby, reassure them that this is a special time for the entire family!