Prepare Siblings for New Baby
To be honest my kids are pretty close together, so they’ve never really had the luxury of getting used to having mom and dad all to themselves, or of being “the baby” for very long. At least until this one. In talking to other parents there are many factors that cause sibling jealousy and reactions over the new baby. Taking steps to prepare siblings for new baby can help some of these challenges be prevented. You never really know how they will react when you bring home that little bundle of joy or when the green monster will raise its head. However there is a lot that we can do as parents to prepare siblings for new baby and pave the way for an easier transition into sibling-hood and all the changes that go with it.
The most important preparation is really to start at the beginning. If you’re planning on having more kids, be honest with them and give them the heads up – “We don’t plan on you hanging out by yourself forever.” Once you’re serious about getting pregnant start warning them about what will change both with the pregnancy and when the baby finally comes. Outline the new role and responsibility of being the big brother/sister. Obviously keep it age appropriate, but even toddlers can understand that special relationship. Help them understand the changes that will happen in your home, from baby supplies to new rules, and new expectations in behavior. Enlist them as your special helpers and make sure they feel important.
Have the Siblings Participate However Possible
It’s important for them to participate throughout the pregnancy in any way possible or that you’re comfortable with.
- Have them help give the baby a nickname while in the womb.
- Discuss baby names with them.
- Help them imagine what this baby will be or look like.
- Make the baby real from the beginning. There are so many pictures and videos of babies in all their stages of development throughout pregnancy available and this helps kids see the growth, the reality, and the eventual results.
- Have them at the ultrasounds (if your doctor permits this) and able to hear the heartbeat are other things that help create a reality around this unknown for your child.
- Have a count down will help them anticipate the change and arrival of this little miracle. Time is a difficult concept for young kids and this gives them something concrete to go off of.
However you’ll find that the last few weeks you’ll have company in your impatience and restlessness for when the baby will finally come – the “why isn’t it here yet” syndrome.
Help Your Child Understand Baby Behavior
Training on baby behavior and needs isn’t just for parents. Start early in the pregnancy to introduce them to other infants and to interact with them and be around them. This gives you the opportunity to teach them the basics of behavior and handling. A baby’s cry can be very distressing to young children and they will want to do something. Avoid potential problems by helping them to understand why they cry, and what they are allowed to do when a baby cries. If these are not explained before hand it could result in your child trying to mimic you to take care of the baby’s needs, children are extremely observant. Explain to them how to act and play with infants, help them feel comfortable around them and explain why they can’t hold them by themselves. I highly recommend getting them a baby of their own (even a special stuffed animal will work) so they can practice and you each have a baby to care for. Even boys will benefit from this.
Answer Their Questions Honestly
All these changes, especially in mommy, will bring a lot of questions for children. Honestly answer any questions with age appropriate information. However don’t just wait for them to ask questions. They will notice the change in energy levels, the morning sickness, the tummy, and the emotional craziness of pregnancy, but they may not ask about it. When you’re having a “pregnancy moment” simply explain why to them. “Mom is super tired because it takes a lot of work to grow a baby, that’s why I need a nap.” “The baby makes mommy’s tummy a little sick because her body is trying to get used to having a baby inside, I’ll get better soon.” “Mommy can’t pick you up anymore because you’re too big and it’s not good for mommy’s tummy muscles.” Imagine how you would feel if no one explained these things to you. You’d be worried and scared for your mom and probably offended by her on many occasions. Answering these silent questions will help them realize that your actions and reactions aren’t necessarily their fault.
As the time draws closer to B-day, have them help with the preparations. There is much they can do and it will help them learn more about the baby and what its needs.
- Have them help you clean (this is a great time to emphasize that the need for cleanliness will be extremely important after the baby comes).
- Have them help pick out clothes, blankets, and a small gift. I don’t actually recommend giving gifts to each of the siblings for when the new baby gets a gift. Personally I believe this lays a foundation for future entitlement issues and “that’s not fair” fights; however if others choose to give them a gift along with the baby that’s fine and their choice.
- Increase personal time with each child and help them know they are loved and irreplaceable.
Together you can figure out a way to make this possible after the baby comes, but be sure to explain that it may also take awhile before life returns to “normal.”
Lastly share your special memories of when they were inside of you, born, and as an infant. This not only helps them set an expectation for the new baby, but to know that you love them and this baby equally and were just as excited about them coming to your family as the baby that is coming now.
Be Realistic as You Prepare Siblings for a New Baby
A little jealousy is normal for all of us. Remember to be realistic in your expectations for yourself and your child. Most importantly be patient, gentle, and forgiving with your older children. They are adjusting just like you are and are doing the best that they can, how you react sends a vibrant message to them about where they stand in your life. Even if its not the message you intended to give. Remember that most likely your child will be acting out of love, curiosity, or a genuine help you or the baby. A gentle calm reaction to a mishap will reassure them that they are loved and help them focus on learning how to care for and love their new sibling, while encouraging their help and participation.
Family is the biggest miracle of all! Working together and focusing on the love you have for each other as parent and child can help make this transition into a special time of memories and learning that your children will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Congratulations on your forthcoming and current children!