GFM SEPT 2016
How to prepare your children for the birth of a new sibling
A new baby brings joys and challenges to a family. Parents are excited, but they are also nervous about how their older children will react to the newborn. All sorts of questions come up: How should we tell our older children that they are going to have a baby brother or sister? Will they be jealous of the new baby? How can we help them get along? Children of different ages will react differently to a new baby. Knowing what to expect from each age group will make it easier to handle the changes in your family.
At this age kids will not understand much about what it means to have a new brother or sister. However, let your child hear you talk about the “new baby” and feel your excitement. She may not understand why you are excited, but your attitude will rub off on her, and she will feel excited, too. Keep in mind, you may not be able to satisfy the needs of both children all the time—especially not by yourself. If you feel overwhelmed, look to your spouse, other relatives, and friends for support and an extra set of arms. Here are some helpful tips:
- Look at picture books about a new baby. At the very least, your child will become familiar with words like “sister,” “brother,” and “new baby.”
- When the new baby arrives, try to do something special for your older child to reassure her she is still loved. Some ideas include giving her a special gift; letting her spend some time alone with dad, grandma, or another special adult; or taking her someplace special.
Your child is still very attached to you and doesn’t understand how to share you with others. He or she may be sensitive to change and feel threatened by the idea of a new sibling. Ease your child into being a big brother or big sister with these tips:
- Wait until you get the nursery ready or until asked about mom’s growing “stomach” before explaining that he is going to be a brother. Books and sibling classes can help.
- Explain that the baby will be cute and cuddly but will also cry and need a lot of your attention. Reassure your child that you will love him just as much after the baby is born as you do now.
- Let her help out. This will decrease jealousy. Let her shop with you for baby items. Display her own baby pictures (so the new baby can see her pictures).
- Give your son/daughter a doll so she can take care of “her” baby. Using the doll, show her how you will care for baby, and let her imitate the behavior.
- Try to reduce other changes before baby arrives (finish potty training, crib to a bed, etc.) ) If that’s impossible, wait until after the new baby’s routine is established.
- Expect some regression. Toilet-trained children might start having “accidents,” or want a bottle. Instead of telling him to act his age, give more physical affection and schedule one-on-one activities. Praise him when he acts more grown-up.
- Prepare your child for when you are in the hospital. He may be confused when you leave for the hospital. Explain that you will be back with the new baby in a day or two.
- Let them cuddle next to you when you feed the baby, and let them grab a diaper or blanket for you, sing a lullaby together, read a book together, etc.
- Ask family and friends to spend a little time with your older child when they come to see the new baby. This will help him feel special and not left out.
- Have your older child spend time with dad. A new baby presents a great opportunity for fathers to spend time alone with older children.
Ages 6 +
Children older than five years are usually not as threatened by a new baby as younger children are. However, they may resent the attention the new baby gets. So here’s how to help prepare them:
- Explain what having a new baby means and what changes may affect her—both the good and the not so good (in simple language).
- Have your older child help get things ready for the new baby by fixing up the baby’s room, picking out clothes, or buying diapers.
- If possible, have your older child come to the hospital soon after the baby is born so she feels part of the growing family.
- Make your older child feel that she has a role to play in caring for the baby. Tell her she can hold the baby with permission. Praise her when she is gentle and loving toward the baby.
- Do not overlook your older child’s needs and activities. Let her know how much you love her. Make an effort to spend some time alone with her; use that as a chance to remind her how special she is. #
Courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics