A Parent's Guide to Preparing Your Child for a New Sibling
Oh, what joy it is to welcome another member to your family soon. We are certain you are excited to meet baby number 2, but your child may not feel the same. For some children, the arrival of a new sibling may seem scary or confusing at first. It is because they need to adjust to a new family unit and a new life.
Preparing your child for a new sibling can be difficult, but there are several ways to help ease the transition period.
Tips on How to Prepare Your Older Child for a New Sibling
If your child seems not ready to be a big brother or sister at the moment, don't worry! Listed below are practical ways you can help prepare your child for significant change in the family.
Before the Arrival of the New Baby
1. Tell the big news to your child as early as you possibly can.
Children need time to adjust to the idea that they will not be the only child. So it's best that you sit down and talk with your child about his new baby brother or sister. Your child should hear the big news from you and not from anyone else.
Ideally, you should break the news before your belly starts to show, or you may need to tell earlier if you show visible signs of pregnancy like morning sickness.
Remember to use words that are age-appropriate so that your child can understand better.
2. Read stories about babies and being a big brother or sister.
Children, especially toddlers, may not fully understand what it means to have a new baby in the family. You can help them warm up to the idea and understand what being an older sibling is like by reading books to them.
Here are examples of books that you can read together:
- I Am a Big Sister by Caroline Jayne Church
- I Am a Big Brother by Caroline Jayne Church
- Waiting for Baby by Rachel Fuller
- God Gave Us Two by Laura J. Bryant
- You're The Biggest by Lucy Tapper
3. Include your child in the plannig process.
One of the best ways to help kids understand that they are becoming big brothers or sisters is by letting them participate in the planning process. They can do this by picking out colors for your baby's room, recommending a name, or giving suggestions about what kind of toys they think you should buy. It will make the transition easier for them and you.
4. Allow your child to express their emotions.
No matter how your child feels or reacts towards the new baby, you should respect and acknowledge him. Extend more patience as it may be difiicult for your child to understand or accept the latest changes. You can give comfort and reassurance without dismissing your child's emotions. Be open to the questions your child might have about your pregnancy and the baby.
5. Set the expectations.
Talk to your child about what it would be like to have a new baby in the family. Highlight the positive aspects of having a younger brother or sister without exaggerating. You also have to be open that the new baby needs more attention because they cannot do things themselves yet. You can let them know basic things like babies need to be fed, cleaned up, dressed up, and put to bed. Let them know that babies tend to cry a lot, even during the night, because that is the way they communicate. Also, let them know that he was once a baby, too, so it would be nice if he would understand.
Don't forget to inform your child that he had to stay with a family member or nanny while you are in the hospital.
6. Consider the timing of the major changes at home.
Moving into a new bed, training to use a potty, and changing to a new nanny are some examples of significant changes that can overwhelm your child. If possible, schedule major activities before the baby comes or wait until you have settled after the baby is born.
After the New Baby is Born
1. Let your child help with simple tasks.
Your older child may probably feel like they are getting left out in all the excitement about the new baby. Encourage your older child to be involved by asking them to do small tasks to help care for the baby.
This way, your older child will get to feel like they are contributing and can feel needed. It can help them get used to being around a new baby, which means less chance of jealousy or overreacting when you have an infant at home.
Below are some ideas of what your older child can do to help with the new baby:
- Fetch things like diapers, clothes, bibs, burp cloths
- Hold their sibling in their lap for cuddles or playtime
- Push the stroller around the house or garden
- Entertain their sibling with toys or books
2. Have a regular "date" with your child.
Spending quality time with your older child can help you establish the bond and reassure that he is important to you. It can be as simple as spending 10 minutes playing on the mat or reading a book together. Or you can make it special by planning an afternoon in a park or a quick trip to an ice cream shop.
3. Ask other family members to spend some time with your child.
When the baby arrives, everyone will be very excited to see the baby. You can also request your family or close friends to spend time with your older child when they drop by to see the baby.
4. Give a gift to your older child.
You can give your child a small but meaningful gift and say that it's from his baby brother or sister. You can do this if you have a young toddler.
Expect that your child may show regressive behaviour and be more clingy. That is part of the adjustment phase. Your child may need some time to accept the fact that he is not the only child anymore. So don't rush, and don't push your child to be as excited as you are. Give your child some space, but with continued guidance and understanding, he will soon come around.
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