Children react in many different ways when they hear the news that a new baby brother or baby sister is soon to come home from the hospital with mom and dad. How they react to this change in the family structure and dynamic depends, to a large extent, on how well you prepare them for it. And their age plays a huge role in whether they fully comprehend the news, or whether they feel confused by it.As parents, it’s your responsibility to help them adapt and accept the new sibling, and when you tell them – and how – determines, to a large extent, their reaction to this life-altering announcement.It’s important that you don’t expect too much of your child at first. Depending on how old they are, they may not yet fully understand that the baby is in your body, even when you say so. And the gestation and birth cycles may be a complete mystery to them. In this article, we offer some suggestions for preparing your child for a new sibling. Timed properly and told simply and clearly, the news can be, if not welcomed entirely, certainly accepted. After all, if they’ve been an only child until now, the idea of a sibling may not thrill them immediately. But not to worry!With your help and guidance, they will adjust and come to cherish this new little person under their roof.
1- Wait Until You Are Used To The Idea Before Telling Them
Even if this pregnancy was planned, it takes a little time for parents to adjust to the reality of having a second (or third) child. Give yourself time to adjust, and perhaps wait until you begin showing before telling your toddler that you have a baby in your belly.If they see your tummy growing, they may ask questions, and that is, of course, just fine. Seeing the baby grow and change gives a child a terrific visual aid, so to speak, that helps them equate what’s happening to mom with the growing baby.
2- Finish Potty Training Before Baby’s Arrival
If your child has begun potty training, it’s important to complete the work before the baby comes, so they are not dealing with too many big life changes all at once. If potty training hasn’t started when the baby comes, postpone it for a while. After all, your child will get there eventually!The same goes for switching from a crib to a bed. Insisting your child move to a “grown-up bed” while dealing with a new sibling is asking too much. Children can’t cope with significant stressors all at once. Even if they are looking forward to the baby’s arrival, it represents a profound change and handling one big difference, not two or three, helps them cope more quickly and positively.
3- Remember That They Will Absorb Your Mood
If you’re having fatigue issues or other aspects of your pregnancy is difficult, try to avoid voicing complaints in front of your child.They will assume it is the baby’s “fault” that you don’t have as much energy as you used to or don’t feel well. Children, particularly before they reach school age, are little sponges who see things in concrete, black and white terms.They cannot comprehend that fatigue is a natural part of pregnancy; they will only see that you’ve changed, and not (in their eyes) necessarily for the better. In their presence, be as joyous as you possibly can be about the impending birth. That helps your child find joy in the baby’s development, too.
4- Get Them Involved In Practical Matters
If it’s time to paint the nursery, for example, ask your child what colours they like and which one they would pick for the baby. The same goes for stocking up on clothing and other essentials.If you’ve still got outfits from their babyhood, go through them with your child and talk about your wonderful memories of that time. Saying things like, “won’t your little blue sweater look cute on the baby?” instills pride in your child and reminds them that they, too, were once a cherished tiny infant and are now the “older and wiser” eldest child – a position of honour in the family.
5- Remind Extended Family To Fuss Over Your Child, Not Just The Baby!
Whether the baby has already arrived or is soon to make their entrance, babies are the source of great joy in families. However, it’s vital that your child, no matter their age, doesn’t feel excluded from the happy talk family members engage in.Remind them that they need to continue spending time with your child, not just the baby. If they’re coming by to see the baby for the first time, suggest they bring a new toy or game for your child and be sure they participate in an activity with them.After all, your child was once the star, so to speak, and being asked to play second fiddle to a new baby will not foster sibling bonds of love and trust. Make sure that baby and child are treated as equal stars of the show.
6- Give Your Child a Role In The Baby’s Care
Obviously, when a new baby arrives, mom and dad are consumed with childcare duties and may not be able to spend as much time with the elder sibling as they did before the birth, at least not for a few months.Getting the older sibling involved in the baby’s care makes them feel like participants, not just observers, in this changing family structure. What you ask them to do depends on their age, naturally, but if they can manage it, suggest they hold and rock the baby for a few minutes each day – under your supervision, of course.Even if all they can do is put away baby clothes into the nursery dresser, laud them for it, and thank them for all their help. What seems like a minor task to an adult can have outsize meaning to a child, and it’s vital that you look at that from their perspective.
7- Get Your Partner To Spend Extra Time With Your Child
If mom feels tired and she can’t play baseball or go shopping for school clothes while in her third trimester, it’s the perfect opportunity for dad to step up and fill the parenting role more actively.Fathers today already take more responsibility for day-to-day parenting responsibilities than their dads did; however, the burden still largely falls on mothers in many families.During pregnancy and when the baby first arrives, encourage dad to spend more time with his older child, which benefits them both and takes the pressure off mom. For example: when you’re feeding your newborn baby, suggest that the father and tot go in the kitchen and get supper started.
8- Read Books That Together Explain Conception & Pregnancy
There are plenty of picture books available that detail, in terms your child will understand, how a baby develops both during pregnancy and in the first months of life.Two terrific titles are: What’s InThere?” by Robbie Harris and Nadine Bernard Westcott, and “What Makes Baby?” by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth. (Both books are available on Amazon.) A quick Internet search will uncover the best, age-appropriate book for you and your child to read together. Check It Out Now On Amazon! Check It Out Now On Amazon!
9- Give Them a Little Extra Attention While You Still Can
Soon enough, you’ll be dividing your focus in half, so for now, give your child lots of extra love and attention. Indulge them by lavishing affection on them, and don’t be surprised if they regress a little.They may ask to sleep with you for a night or two because they may feel a little insecure. As long as it doesn’t persist, letting them act a little baby-ish for a bit isn’t going to cause any harm.
Last But Not Least
Welcoming a new baby is an exciting step in the evolution of your family. If handled properly, with care and concern for their feelings, your older child will get excited about this change in the family dynamic.They may not be an only child anymore, but they get all the fun and recognition of being an older sibling — the chance to be a role model and have a lifelong bond with this person. Never again will they have to face the future alone because this new baby may one day prove to be their very best friend as well as their sibling. And that is cause for celebration, and joy, for everyone in the family!