Preparing your child (children) for a new sibling
Many of the clients I work with have been with me since before their first child was born. When they find themselves pregnant with their next baby we often communicate about not only the ways that I can help them through this new pregnancy and birth but also what kinds of resources I can offer them in preparing their older child for the new family member.
BEST-RECEIVED IDEAS FOR MAKING YOUR OLDER CHILD READY
• When you bring the new baby home you may find it helpful to post a note on your door that reads:
“Welcome to our home and we look forward to you meeting our new baby. FIRST, please take a moment to speak with [your older child’s name]. Ask him/her to introduce you to the baby.”
By taking this approach you remind visitors that your older child has always been the focus of initial contact for these visitors and they will rapidly notice how the focus has moved to the baby. This reminder helps your older child feel important. The baby isn’t really interested in the fact that these people have come to meet him/her.
• As much as we adults love getting gifts, let your older child be the one to open the gifts. It will help him/her feel involved.
• Have a few gifts for your older child for those occasions when guests have only brought something for the baby.
• Try not to make too many changes to your child’s routine too close to the delivery. If you are going to move your child out of a crib, into another room, or into a new day care, it would be better to do it months before the baby is born.
• Do not try and teach your child new skills close to the delivery date (potty training, weaning from a bottle, moving to a new bed).
• Expect your child to act like a baby to see what kind of a reaction you will give. **Remember: the more you react (i.e.: “big boys don’t pee in their pants,” or “big girls don’t sleep in cribs”) the more the baby-like behaviour will persist.**
Try to be patient.
• Allow your older child to hold the baby whenever s/he wants. Teach him/her how to hold the baby safely. This will fill her/his desire to hold the baby and assure that s/he understands that holding the baby is only okay to do when you are there to help.
• Spend time making a game out of the kinds of strange noises that you may make when you are in labour. If your child wakes up in the middle of the night and hears you labouring it may be frightening. By making a game out of this ahead of time they will be more willing to accept the sounds instead of being scared and they will not be so quick to blame the baby for “hurting mommy.” **This is ESPECIALLY important if you are planning to have your baby at home and there is an increased likelihood that your older child will hear you in labour.**
• Do your very best to avoid using the baby as an excuse for not being able to do something. For example: your older child wants a glass of water. It is easy to say, “I can’t get it right now because I am nursing the baby.” This answer may very well incite resentment for the baby from the older child because if it weren’t for the baby, you would be able to get the water. Instead try: “I am in the middle of something else. As soon as I have a moment, I will get that glass of water for you.” Says the same thing but doesn’t mention the baby. It’s amazing how well this works.
• Talk about when your older child was a baby and show pictures of when s/he was an infant illustrating what the baby will require from you in terms of care.
• Take your older child to your doctor visits so s/he can hear the baby’s heartbeat and meet the health care provider.
• Talk in terms of “we are going to have a baby.” It is okay if s/he refers to the baby as “my baby.”
• Have your child help with the baby’s room and buying clothes and toys. Discuss toy safety for the baby.
• Allow your older child to buy a gift special for the baby and remind them to give it to the baby the first time your older child meets the baby.
• Try to have a gift for your older child that is something s/he has been really wanting. Make this a gift for them from the baby. Sure it’s bribery but they don’t know that!
• If you are delivering your baby in the hospital then talk to your older child about the fact that you will be away and if s/he will be spending a night away somewhere then it may be helpful to have a practise run (at least once) ahead of time.
• Allow your child to select the baby’s coming-home outfit.
• Check out library books and tapes on what it is like to have a new baby in the house. **See list at the bottom for story suggestions**
• Reassure your child that you have plenty of love for everyone, as well as the new baby.
• Emphasize that it is fun being the big brother/big sister. Your child will get to show off the baby to friends, show the baby how to eat, drink and play.
• Let your child use a doll or stuffed animal to practice changing diapers, putting on clothes, and holding.
**REMEMBER: this is YOUR baby though and the interest in “helping” mommy out by doing little jobs for you (like getting a diaper or toy, etc.) will lose appeal VERY quickly. Don’t make your older child feel guilty for not wanting to do the little things you feel you lack the time or ability to easily do.**
• Have a special stack of books that you and your older child only read while you are nursing. Have special toys that only come out while breastfeeding. This helps make the time you spend sitting and feeding the baby special for all three of you.
• Tell your older child that you will always have special time for them and mean it. Make time to spend one-on-one with them every day.
SIBLING PREPARATION BOOK IDEAS FOR YOUNG CHILDREN EXPECTING NEW SIBLINGS
Parentbooks is a WONDERFUL store on Harbord Street in Toronto (just east of Bathurst on the south side of Harbord). From here you can find MANY titles of books written specifically for the children and parents expecting a new baby. Some of the books I’ve read and loved are found on this list.
Some I LOVE to highlight include:
Alexander, Martha. Nobody Asked Me If I Wanted a Baby Sister Camp, Lindsay. The Biggest Bed in the World Corey, Dorothy. Will There Be A Lap For Me? Lohans, Alison. Waiting for the Sun Overend, Jenni. Welcome With Love Sears, William & Martha and Watts Kelly, Christie. Baby on the Way Sears, William & Martha. What Baby Needs
For Parents: Faber, Adele & Mazlish, Elaine. Siblings without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too, Revised ‘98 (**I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this book and recommend EVERY parent read it before having another baby!! It is BRILLIANT!)