If you’re having a baby, you may be filled with anxiety about how to prepare your child for the arrival of a new sibling. While many kids struggle with the transition to having a little brother or little sister, this new phase in your child’s life can provide an amazing opportunity for growth as well as a new companion and playmate for your kid. Further, preparing your child for a new baby can help to set your children up for a good, lifelong friendship. Here’s what you need to know.
Allow Time To Adjust to the Idea
Just as parents take nine months to prepare to have a new baby in the house, siblings need time to adjust to the changes a sibling brings. Tell your child about the pregnancy when you begin telling friends and family. If your child feels included and doesn’t hear about the baby from someone else, he’s more likely to react positively. Moreover, if he’s upset about the idea of a new baby at first, telling him early on can give him enough time to talk through feelings, adjust to potential changes, and get used to the idea of having a baby in the house. Don’t expect your child to be excited at first. Though many children love the idea of a new sibling, some will be scared, or will be excited and then angry. Instead, allow your child time to process through all of his feelings and be available to talk to him.
Get Your Child Involved
One common source of trouble when parents have a new baby is that the older child may feel excluded. Parents are going to the hospital, to doctor’s visits, and decorating a nursery, which can make a child feel left out and even replaced. Allow your child to participate in the process of preparing for a new baby as much as she is able. Get her input on baby names; get her to help decorate the nursery. Take her to doctor’s visits so she can see the ultrasound if you and she are comfortable with this. You should also allow her to visit the baby after the birth if she wants to. Giving her special time with the baby, especially if this time happens before everyone else in the family meets the baby, can help her understand the important role she will play in the baby’s life. Further, including her in the process of preparing for the baby makes it more likely that she will feel a sense of responsibility and protectiveness toward the baby.
Make Your Child Feel Grown Up
Children often worry about being replaced by a new baby. Instead, you should let your child know how important he will be to the baby. Talk to him about all the ways he will be able to help with the baby and encourage him to feel a sense of responsibility for the baby. Children love to be treated like adults (as long as that doesn’t mean they miss out on being comforted like children), so if you talk to your child about his important role as an older sibling, he’s more likely to adapt to having a new baby around.
Don’t Interrupt Important Routines
In the first few weeks that the new baby is around, your child’s life will change dramatically. You may be distracted and many of her routines may be disrupted. Work hard to maintain important routines and avoid disrupting the normal pace of life. If you’re planning to move your child into a new bedroom when the baby arrives, for example, ease her slowly into this transition, and do it well before the baby arrives so that she does not feel displaced by the baby. Ask family and friends to help out by providing companionship, outings, and play time to your older child when the baby arrives, and avoid getting so wrapped up in the stress of a new baby that you forget to tend to your older child’s needs.
Allow your Child To Help With the Baby
After the baby arrives, allow your child to hold the baby with supervision, feed the baby, and help with diaper changes. If he doesn’t want to do these things, don’t push him, but if he’s interested in taking an active role with the baby, don’t discourage this. You may be concerned about the baby’s safety, but as long as you provide adequate supervision, your older child can take a strong role in nurturing the baby and maybe even help you out with a few tasks.
Welcoming a new baby can be wrought with stress, but taking the time necessary to acclimate your older child to a new sibling should not be neglected. Reward and encourage positive steps and take every opportunity you can to convey to your child that she is important, loved, and needed by the new baby!