Everything was so new and special when you became a first-time mom. It is not about your first baby changes your life, but turning it upside down. And while none of your successive kids will have such an impact on your life like the first one, they will certainly bring a major change in the life of their siblings. Introducing a new baby to siblings is going to be one of your most challenging parenting tasks.
Start introducing a new baby to siblings as early as in pregnancy
When preparing siblings for a new baby, consider their age. It is difficult for a one or two-year-old to imagine how her world will change with the new baby arrived. When talking to your child about the baby, use simple wording. If your child shows any interest, give some more information such as “The baby will sleep in this crib” or “The baby will eat from this bottle.” You can expect more involvement from your three or four-year old kid. Children of this age have already developed a certain level of imagination, and you can invite them to participate in making a simple decision like choosing a stroller. You can also delegate simple tasks such as unwrapping the presents received during the baby shower.
You may need to talk more with your children older than 5 years who may have hard feelings about the attention the new baby will get. Be honest with them in explaining how the new baby will affect their lives in both good and bad ways. Make them feel they will have an important role to play in the family when the baby arrives.
The following techniques may help you with introducing a new baby to siblings of almost any age:
- Watch together your kid’s photo album and show her your pictures when you were pregnant with her;
- Visit friends who have kids, and never miss an opportunity to show babies to your kid when you see them;
- Let your kid feel how your baby kicks or hear the baby’s heartbeat during a regular check-up.
Avoid bringing major changes in your kid’s life just before the new baby arrives
Your older kid will lose some comfort with the new sibling, so avoiding any transition that may cause additional stress to her is important. Schedule any big changes like potty training, moving to a big-kid bed, weaning from breastfeeding or pacifier, starting pre-school, or moving to a new neighborhood several months before the due date. In that way, your kid will not associate those big changes with the baby’s arrival and will have time to become accustomed to new circumstances.
Make the arrival of the new baby memorable for the sibling
There are many different ways of making the first encounter of your children memorable for your older kid. One way is to show that he is in charge of the situation. Make an arrangement with the hospital so that your kid (together with your partner) brings the baby to your room and introduces to you.
Organize and “exchange” of presents between your kids. Before your baby arrives, ask your child what she would like to give as a present to her sibling. Buy whatever she picks in the store. Figure out what your child seems really into, buy it, wrap it, and take with you to the hospital. When you introduce him to his new brother or sister, give him the gift as if the baby has “brought” for him.
Make the older sibling feel important in the new family context
Each new baby changes the structure of the family and introduces new family relations. Often, when all attention of family members becomes focused on the new baby, those relations may turn into sibling rivalry based on feelings of jealousy, anger, and confusion.
The best way to address the anxiety of your older child about this change is to make him feel important in the new family structure. You can give him a central role in all festivities you arrange for the birth of the baby so he can greet the visitors and introduce them to the baby. Meanwhile, ask your friends and relatives to pay a special attention to your older kid and talk to him about things he is interested in.
Many kids are willing to participate in daily activities and care of babies. Depending on her age, you can ask your child to help change the baby’s diaper, push the stroller, undress for a bath, or simply entertain the baby. Don’t panic, if your child does not express any interest in the baby, and don’t force it. It will come with the time.
Talk to your kid about how she feels
All of us would like to think that our kids are excited about the arrival of their new sibling. However, kids are more concerned with what they lose with that arrival, and that is primarily your attention and their centrality in your life. Mommy is not as accessible as before and, perhaps, is tired most of the time.
Create a situation for your child to express her feelings – both negative and positive. Tell her: “It is normal if you don’t like your sister when she cries at night.” Do not challenge her negative emotions by saying “Oh, no! I thought you loved her!” because it will mean to her that her true feelings about the situation are not welcome.
Let the Dad Step In
Involve your partner in the process of introducing a new baby to siblings as much as you can. Dad’s attention will compensate the one he will not receive from you like before. Ask your partner to reserve one-on-one outings with the kid with his favorite entertainment – parks, ice creams, and movie theatres.
As the renowned pediatrician, Dr. William Sears says: “With a little parental guidance, siblings can grow up to be close compadres.” All you need is some planning, attention, and care.
What is your plan of introducing a new baby to siblings? Any interesting arrangements? Share with us.