Guest Post: How to Prepare your Child for a New Baby
Sometime readers of this blog will know that I am expecting our 2nd bundle of joy soon and I just can’t wait for it to happen as soon as is possible (last month blues). But along with that comes a huge concern about how Aarya will take to the newest member, who will most likely become the center of attention for ALL in the family. I have been reading up a lot about this and was so happy to read this article sent to me by Charlotte of Surf Excel. This is a guest post, and a very relevant one for us at this point of time, I hope this helps you some too.
How to Prepare your Child for a New Baby
When there’s a new baby on the way, it’s time of great excitement for everyone in the family. But for your firstborn child, it may be difficult to grasp what’s happening and deal with all the changes involved. Many parents worry that their child may feel displaced or resentful towards their little brother or sister, and it’s only natural for this to occur; after all, they’re no longer the baby of the family!
Preparation and understanding are essential in dealing with potential sibling jealousy, and the earlier you tackle the issue head-on, the easier it will be. You may not be able to avert your child’s negative feelings completely, but you can help them minimize them by including them in the pregnancy process, talking to them about the birth, and reassuring them that they are no-less special in your eyes. Here are a few good parenting tips on how to prepare your child for the new arrival.
Waiting for the big day: how to involve your child in the pregnancy
It’s important to explain – in an age-appropriate way – exactly what having a new baby will mean for your first child. Though it’s hard to speak about the future with a pre-school tot, you can describe the event in relative terms, telling them that the baby will be here ‘by the wintertime’, or ‘after Divali’.
Your child may be curious about where babies come from, so try to explain how their new sibling will grow in Mommy’s tummy until they’re ready to come out and meet everyone. Older children may ask more in-depth questions, so consider buying books that are suitable for their age, and try to answer their questions appropriately.
If your child is in a transitional stage – perhaps about to start potty-training or move up to a big kid’s bed – it’s better to do this way in advance. This is especially important if you will need to relocate your first child to a different room to make room for the baby. Your child might otherwise associate these changes with the arrival and misinterpret them as signs you no longer love them in the same way.
Even before the birth, it’s vital to reinforce your relationship with your elder son or daughter. Get out their own baby photo albums and look through them together. Talk about the baby in personal terms, such as ‘our baby’ or ‘your new brother’ to foster that connection early on. Include your child in as many decisions as you can, like picking out baby clothes and discussing names, and take them with you to see the doctor.
The birth: how to make sure your child doesn’t feel left out
As your due date gets nearer, make a plan of action and decide who will take care of your child when you have to go to hospital. Talk about this as a nice treat, rather than a way of getting rid of them: ‘you get to go see Granny while I’m at the hospital!’
Once the new baby has arrived, try to get your child to be one of the first visitors – preferably while no one else is around – so that they feel part of the occasion – and involved as a family member. It’s a good idea to encourage your child to hold the baby, as this is an excellent bonding opportunity. Don’t worry if your child is nervous or disinterested towards their sibling at first: sometimes they need time to adjust and it’s not really something that should be pushed.
Your house will probably be flooded with family and friends in those first few days, but be sure to encourage them to give due attention to your older child, as well as to the new arrival. Arrange to have a few presents on hand to give to the big brother or sister, so that they don’t feel they are being over-looked.
Growing up together: how to minimise sibling rivalry
As the days and weeks go by, your child may exhibit signs of resentment or jealousy towards the baby. It is to be expected and you should try not to blame or punish them.
Children may sometimes play up and act naughtily in order to receive attention, or display regressive signs such as ‘baby talk’. While you shouldn’t tolerate bad behaviour, try to deal with the root cause, rather than just telling them off. Make it clear that they are older now; praise them when they show their independence; and reinforce their big brother or sister role.
You can also encourage your older child to interact with the new family member in positive ways, like helping you to change the baby’s nappy, or give them a bath. But, you should also set aside quality time for just you and your firstborn, perhaps during the baby’s naptime.
Remember that even if your child express negative or hostile feelings towards the baby, it’s better to allow your child to be honest. If this starts to manifest itself in pinching or physical harm, calmly remind your child that ‘our baby’ needs to be treated with care. Encourage bonding by being consistent in voicing the message that the baby needs to be protected and looked after by their older sibling – both now and in the years to come.
Thank you Charlotte for some really great tips! I would also love to read tips from you (my mom-friends of siblings) who have gone through these stages. What are your tips for preparing 3-4 year olds for a new baby and how do you make sure they don’t feel left out and eventually deal with rivalry? Thanks for sharing your views!