If you thought the arrival of your first baby would bring about lots of changes to your family unit- just wait until you add one or two more to the fold! The birth of a new baby is always a wonderfully exciting time and it is easy for us as parents, to get caught up in the preparations that go with it. Even after the birth, it is easy to focus on the new baby’s needs, as much of our time and attention will be devoted to the latest addition to the family. All this can sometimes be a little hard for an older sibling to cope with and it is not uncommon for them to display jealousy towards the newborn.
It is well worth taking the time then to prepare your older child in advance as much as possible, for the changes that will take place.
Here our some of our top tips!
Say it loud and say it proud! ( But just make sure you tell your older child before anyone else in the family!) It is really important you tell your child you are expecting a baby and they do not hear it from anyone else in the family first. They will love to be included and will feel very special if they are part of such an important announcement to other members of your family.
Connections Count! Encourage your older child to feel connected to the new baby. Use words such as “ our baby” “ your brother/sister” , the greater the feeling of ownership towards the baby, the lesser the chances they will feel displaced by the new arrival.
Begin with the beginning! Involve them during the pregnancy stage, read books about childbirth and talk about possible baby names you all like. Let them help pack your hospital bag and include a photo of them, so they know you will be thinking about them too. Set the stage during this time, by explaining how mummy will feel more tired and how the new baby will need help to feed and get changed as they can’t do it for themselves.
Top tip! Sort out who your child will be left with when you go into labour, make sure they feel comfortable with your choice and are happy and excited to be left there. You don’t want them to feel unhappy and resentful if you make the wrong choice, as this will spill over to negative thoughts about the baby’s arrival.
Number One Visitor! Try and ensure if at all possible, your child is the first visitor to see the new baby. Make sure you show him or her lots of affection, rather than being too preoccupied with the new baby. This will help reassure any worries they might have.
Gifts! It’s always a good idea for the big brother or sister to be given some presents as well as the baby! They don’t have to be big or expensive. And make sure they have bought a present for the baby too. Choosing something can be part of your preparations prior to the birth.
Little helpers Try involving your child as much as is possible and practical. For example, let them help you choose some items before the baby is born. They could pick out a new baby blanket or some scratch mittens or a mobile for the cot. Once the baby is born, they can help you with some simple tasks. These could include, fetching a burp cloth at feeding time or a nappy or baby wipe during changing time. Children love to be involved and it will really help if they can feel included in the caring and nurturing surrounding a newborn as this will lessen the problem of jealousy.
Toy story! Maybe give your child a new baby doll to care for to coincide with the new arrivals birth. They will enjoy playing mum or dad and mimicking what you do.
Cuddles and kisses! If your older child is too young to be able to offer practical help, they can still be encouraged to interact with the new baby, by giving plenty of cuddles and kisses ( gentle ones of course!). Let your child hold the baby when they are sitting down carefully. Make sure you explain how important it is to be extra careful around a newborn baby and how they need to be very gentle, but try not to worry them unduly. Don’t forget, young children will need close supervision at all times, when it comes to any involvement with the baby.
Wardrobe assistant! Why not let your child pick out what baby grow the baby can wear after bath time or if they need a change of clothes following a nappy change! Or what Funky Giraffe bandana goes with which outfit!
Reading matters! You can also get your child to read to the baby, even if they can’t read yet, they can still tell a story from a picture book. They will feel extra grown up doing this, especially if reading is part of their own bed time routine.
Singing the praises! Don’t forget to make a fuss about all the things your older child can do, the baby can’t yet. He or she needs to know they have an important role in the family. You can say things like, “ I love it when we read together” or “ you are so helpful when you get your brother’s bib at feeding time”. Try and note specific things he or she does, as this helps to reinforce their place in the family. You can point out how grown up they are compared to the baby, for example, they can go on the swings or even that they eat real food! Praising all the little things he or she can do will help them to realise they are special too. Don’t forget to be positive about the baby - for example when the baby reaches any milestones, such as sleeping through the night. This helps engender a sense of pride in the older brother or sister towards their younger sibling.
Set aside some me and you time! We know it can sometimes be hard to achieve, but try and ensure you set aside some alone time to spend with your older child. If possible, try and include your partner as well. This really will help to remind them them, mummy and daddy loves the new baby AND them. You don’t need to make elaborate plans, maybe a trip to the park or playing a favourite game with them.
Memories are made of this! Children love to hear about how they were as a baby. Why not show them their own baby book if you have one or some photos of when they were smaller. It is a really good idea to ask questions like, “ I wonder if the new baby will have the same colour hair as you” or maybe “ do you think you needed as many nappy changes as the new baby?!”
Avoid big transitions: Avoid any difficult stages like potty training or graduating to a “ big bed” too close to the baby’s birth as you don’t want them associated with the new baby and you might also feel too tired to be as patient as needed!
Have you any ideas or tips on how to prepare older children for the birth of a new baby? We would love to see some photos of some special sibling love!