This weekend my kids took part in a sibling class at our local hospital. My 6 year old daughter was in her glory, as I suspected she would be! She could answer most of the instructor’s questions, she diapered and swaddled her doll like a pro and hogged most of the time in front of the nursery window “oohhhing” and “aahhing” at the newborn babies. I wasn’t sure what to expect from my 3 1/2 year old…but he did surprisingly well too! He participated in the activities and was excited to hold, diaper and swaddle his doll (even though it was girl!).
In about a month, our family of four is going to become a family of 5. Or as some would say, my husband and I are moving from man to man defense to zone! And as most parents do, I am already feeling guilty about how having another child will rock the worlds of my daughter and son. I am confident my daughter will adjust well; she has already been through this once when her brother was born and was so excited about him and helping me take care of him she didn’t have time to be jealous. And now that she is older and more able to help out, I will be sure to give her some responsibilities in helping to take care of the baby so that she feels even more important as a second time big sister. I do worry about my son, though. I admit I have babied him for longer than I should’ve; carrying him whenever he asks, excusing some of his behavior that should be disciplined and conceding when he kicks and screams when I should stand firm. It wasn’t until recently that he started acknowledging to others that there even is a baby in my tummy. Up until then he would tell them there was a puppy in there! I do think it was difficult for him to grasp the idea of me pregnant. It was an abstract thing to him until until my tummy got so big it was in his way when he sat in my lap! I also think the pregnancy clicked more with him after I showed him pictures of when he was in my tummy and the day he was born.
So to prepare both of the kids for what lies ahead I have been reading up on the do’s and don’ts when it comes to welcoming a new sibling into the family. I’m hoping to ease this transition for all of us, and hope that these tips help your family in the same way too!
Before the New Baby arrives:
*Visit the hospital where the baby will be delivered to help ease your child’s anxiety about where you will be when you are gone.
*Enroll your child(ren) in a sibling preparation class. Ours was offered by the Wellness program through our local hospital…totally worth the registration costs, in my opinion!
*Read age-appropriate books or watch videos about becoming a big brother/sister. Check out your local library for this.
*Allow the older sibling(s) to help prepare for the baby: make a list of what the baby will need, let them help you decorate the nursery (hanging a picture drawn by the big sibling in the baby’s room really helps them feel involved), help mommy pack her suitcase for the hospital.
*Share photos with your older child(ren) of when they were born.
*Help the older child(ren) create or pick out a special gift to give to the new baby.
After the Baby arrives:
*Try to keep your old routine up for the older child(ren) as much as you can. The familiarity and predictability of the “old routine” will help ease any anxiety your older child(ren) may be experiencing about the change in your family after the new baby’s arrival.
* Provide your child(ren) with a baby doll and props (diaper bag, diapers, blanket, etc.) so that they may care for their baby while you care for your new baby.
*Include the older sibling(s) in the routine of caring for the new baby.
*Don’t “blame the baby” ( example: say you have to leave somewhere because the baby has to eat). This may cause your older child(ren) to resent the baby.
*Attach emotions to the baby’s cries; she’s crying because she’s hungry or tired.
*Encourage friends and family to greet your older child(ren) before greeting the baby and to ask the older child(ren) about the new baby. Older siblings will take pride in sharing the news of their new sibling and want to be considered the baby expert by others!
*And lastly, try to schedule some one on one time with your older child(ren) daily. Just 15 minutes a day to play and engage with them will reassure them that are loved and not forgotten about.
My son, hard at work, diapering his baby.
My daughter, proud of her “Official Big Sister” certificate.