Whenever a new baby comes home, changes are bound to occur. The one often most affected by this new bundle of joy is an older sibling. There are many things parents can do with children to prepare them for a new shared life with baby.
Getting Ready for Baby
Talking with your child is one of the most important things you can do to prepare him for a sibling. Talk on your child’s developmental level about things that will change after the baby is born. Talk about how there will be times that Mommy/Daddy will be temporarily unavailable while the baby needs help. Remind the child that you helped them in the same way when they were a tiny baby. Discuss daily chores surrounding baby, especially if you plan to breastfeed. Be ready to answer any questions your child asks honestly and directly, on their level.
It is also very important to involve the child in the pregnancy. Let your child help pick out baby’s outfits, toys, decorations for the nursery, etc. If the child is old enough, allow him/her to come to a doctor’s visit (when a pelvic exam is not scheduled). Share pictures/videos of the ultrasound with your child.
Other good ideas: Read stories and watch videos about new babies and their families. Buy the child a baby doll of his/her own to care for. Write down stories or sentences about what he/she thinks it will be like after the baby comes. Let him/her predict what the baby might look like (color hair/eyes/etc.) Hear his/her ideas for names (even if you don’t like them.) Buy or make a shirt that says “I’m the big brother/sister” and a matching shirt or onesie for baby. Keep a journal of what the pregnancy is like to your child. Acknowledge any fears and concerns and talk about them. Talk about what your child was like as a baby, share pictures and stories. Take a “sibling class” at a local hospital-but ask for an outline in advance to make sure you approve of the content. Visit the maternity ward of the hospital. Take a tour if possible and look at the newborns. Prepare your child for the stay with whoever will watch them while you are in the hospital. Pack special treats in their bag. Talk about how long the stay will be. Wrap up simple toys or books (can even be bought at the dollar store) for the older sibling.
Your child will most likely enjoy helping to welcome baby home with decorations. You may help him/her to create banners and posters stating a variety of welcoming sentiments. You also can make buttons and cards for the new parents, grandparents and other relatives together.
Let your child be involved in preparing baby’s special area before arrival. Whether it is setting a special blanket in a crib or bassinet or tub toys near the tub, your child will feel special.
After the Baby
Even the most secure child is sure to notice a difference when the new baby arrives home. There are many good ideas to help the child understand why things are different and tips to help some of those inevitable times when the older child “needs” you when you are busy with baby.
Make sure to take time to spend with the child alone every day. Even if it is only five minutes, a silly game or favorite story will be something special your child will look forward to. Have a special box of toys or books available only when you are nursing/feeding baby and unavailable to play. Make sure your child has pottied/been changed before you sit down to feed baby or rock to sleep. Purchase juice boxes or pre-pour juice and have snacks available for times you are busy with baby. Let the older sibling help by retrieving diapers/blankets/singing lullabies, etc.
The biggest point I can make is to make sure the older child feels involved. This new baby will influence and change his/her life forever. If the child is involved and understands on his/her level what is going on, he/she is less likely to be frustrated and angry about all of the new transitions