How to Prepare Your Child for a New Brother or Sister
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Children can react with very different emotions when they learn they’re about to be an older sibling. For every excited kid yelling “I’m a big sister!” to everyone she meets, there’s a quiet child who’s scared the new baby will replace him, or a jealous older sibling who’s acting out. Or you get all three emotions—excitement, jealousy, and fear—mixed up in one kid.
This is perfectly normal. A new baby means change, and change can be stressful, especially for kids. Here’s a few ways to help your soon-to-be oldest child get used to a new family member.
You’re pregnant, and your daughter has questions about this whole baby deal. Answer her questions as honestly as possible, remembering not to interpret them from an adult perspective. Just because she asks how babies are made does not mean you have to give your four-year-old the facts of life. Instead, tell her the baby will grow in the mother’s belly until it’s ready to come out. Kids will generally be more interested with the baby and where it is now than the specifics of how it got there (in a pinch, saying it grows naturally might evade more delicate questions).
“When will the baby get here?” is another question you’re likely to be asked. Remember younger children have a limited grasp of time, so giving the due date or how many months until birth won’t mean much. Instead, tie the birth to an event such as Halloween, or to a season.
While You’re Pregnant
There are several things you can do during the pregnancy to help calm children’s anxieties about their new sibling:
- Ask the child for help choosing the baby’s name
- If appropriate, take the child to see the ultrasound or listen to the baby’s heartbeat
- Let the child feel the baby move or kick
- Let the child help decorating the nursery
- Look at the older child’s own baby pictures together
- Read age appropriate books about babies and childbirth
- Use a doll top teach the older sibling how to safely hold a baby
- Visit friends with babies.
During and After the Birth
Talk to children about where they will be and what they will be doing while mommy is in the hospital, so they understand what will happen. A fun visit with grandparents or friends may distract them from any worries.
Once the baby is born, have the child visit the hospital as soon as possible to be introduced to the new arrival. If possible, only have the parents and children present for this meeting.
Your child is now a big brother or sister. Show them you appreciate that milestone with a gift from the baby. Gifts for brothers from sisters (and vice versa) such as a new toy or book, make the child feel appreciated. A “my new baby brother” book or a super, incredible big sister book not only acknowledge the older sibling’s new role, they provide a wonderful keepsake.
Once home, try to keep the older sibling’s routine as normal as possible. if the older child wants to help care for the baby, let them even if it means completing tasks takes longer. Be sure to praise them for being great older siblings.
Some older children seem to show no interest in the new baby. if this happens, don’t worry. It’s quite normal, and will pass in time. Try to make time for one-on-one parent interactions with older children, to reassure them your love for them hasn’t changed with the new baby.
Kids are adaptable—before you know it both kids will be inseparable (and fighting over the last cookie). And congratulations on the new addition to the family!