Ready or not, bringing a new baby into the family is an exciting time for Mom and Dad, but for big brother or big sister the change may be more of a challenge.
How and when you share the news about the new sibling that’s on the way and the changes that will be coming for your family will be up to you, but experts agree that the sooner you introduce the idea of a new baby, the better it is.
Your child, no matter how old he or she is, needs as much time as possible to adjust to the idea of having a new member of the family – especially one that is going to take as much of your attention as the baby will. It’s important to be honest and use age appropriate language to talk to your child about the baby that’s on the way.
I know you’ll be anxious to make your child love the new baby and be happy about being a big sibling; but it also isn’t good to sugar coat it. The baby will be cute and cuddly, but inform and prepare your child for the crying, the dirty diapers and YOU being exhausted (and maybe even a little grumpy!). It’s not all peaches and cream and it isn’t good to pretend that it will be. Honesty is always best.
Once you’ve shared the big news with your child, there are some proven techniques you can use to make the transition to being a big brother or big sister easier for your child. Let’s talk about some of those, shall we?
Read All About It
One of the easiest things you can do to help your little one prepare for the arrival of your new baby is find books that talk about the role of being a big sibling and read them with your child. Be sure to find ones that are age appropriate for your child.
Reading books like this with the big brother or big sister will give them an idea of what to expect and will, at the very least, familiarize them with words like “brother,” “sister,” “new baby,” and other terms relative to babies and fitting to their age. Here is a list of books that serve this very purpose.
With the arrival of every new baby there are a lot of preparations to be done and one of the best ways to get your child excited about the idea of a new baby in the house is to get them involved in those preparations. Take your little one with you when you go shopping for new things for the baby’s room. This will let your son or daughter get used to the change as it happens and prevent him or her from becoming jealous of the baby before the baby arrives.
If your child is a little bit older, allow them to be more involved by helping you pick out clothes for the new brother or sister or helping with choosing items for the nursery. The more involved they are with preparing for the arrival of the baby, the more included they will feel and the less likely they will be to be resentful and jealous when the baby comes.
Look At You
If you’re going through your child’s old baby things, show them some of their baby pictures so they can see what they looked like when they were little. (Be sure to tell them how cute they were!)
When and if you find out the gender of your new baby, if you are sharing the name you have chosen, you can start calling the baby by name when you’re talking to your little one. Ask some questions to help them start to build a relationship with the baby: Who do you think “name” will look like? What color eyes do you think “name” will have? Are you excited to meet “name?” This will allow your child to feel a greater connection with the baby during your pregnancy.
Help Take Care of Baby
While you are going through the baby things let your child play with some of the toys before you put them away or get them ready for the new baby to use. It’s also fun to get your child a baby doll to play with so they can take care of their own baby. Playing with a doll can get them used to holding, caring for, and nurturing a baby. These things help your child make a special connection with the new baby brother or baby sister before their younger sibling arrives.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to be sure you’re spending quality time with your child before the baby gets here and to continue to make time even after the baby arrives. The biggest problem children have adjusting to a new baby is feeling jealous or resentful of the time the new baby brother or sister takes.
Before the baby is even born, establish a habit of spending some one-on-one time with your child and make a plan to continue doing so after the baby has arrived. You will find that your child adjusts much better to the new chaos if you make an intentional effort to remind him/her of how special they are by spending some quality time with them. If the big brother or big sister feels left out all the time they will naturally start to get jealous or be resentful, and that leads to bad behavior.
Even if that special time just means that you are reading some books or having some cuddle time while the baby is napping, make sure you are setting aside some time each day to spend with just him or her to remind them of how special they still are! You won’t regret it!
Quality Time with Family
Another easy tip is to ask family members to spend some special time with the big brother or big sister. This is a great way to help your older child transition into his or her role as sibling. Once the baby comes home and the quiet times you used to spend with your child are interrupted by a crying baby who needs to be changed, fed, or held it is so helpful if you have family members that can take your oldest out for some special time. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, or close family friends who live close enough can come spend some special time with just them to remind them they are still important and matter.
It doesn’t have to be a grand outing every time or purchasing gifts. Snuggling, reading books, playing games, going for walks to the park, or just going to someone else’s house are all good ways to make brother or sister feel special again and can give Mom and Dad a break too! Make certain that your firstborn still gets the attention of grandparents and other family members.
Who doesn’t like presents? A fun way to help your little one welcome the new member of your family is to let them pick out a gift to take with them to the hospital when they meet their new brother or sister for the first time. And, make sure that little brother or little sister has a present for their big sibling too to exchange.
If there was any hesitation on the part of your child, getting a gift from the new baby should help to calm those reservations. If you’re able, it’s also a great idea for you to do something special from you for your older child when the baby is born. Whatever you decide to do, be sure to remind your son or daughter of how much you love them and that the new baby has not in any way replaced them in your heart.
If there is one thing I would stress to you, it is this: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! It doesn’t do your child any good if you are tired and grumpy. New babies are hard – period! Trying to balance taking care of a newborn with all of the responsibilities you already had is tough. Plus, there is the whole recovery process from giving birth.
Don’t be afraid to take a family or friend up on their offer to help. This is not a time to be Mrs. Independent. Ask someone to bring a meal, help with chores, or come watch the baby so you can take a nap or take a shower, or maybe even just spend some time one-on-one time with big brother or big sister. It will do wonders for your child’s relationship with the new baby if he or she doesn’t feel completely replaced or ignored. None of us would do it on purpose, but sometimes we make them feel that way because we are stretched thin.
Use your resources and don’t be afraid to call for help.
Stick to It
It is important for you to find a routine that works for you and stick to it. Try to establish that routine with your oldest before baby comes so there can be a sense of normalcy after the baby comes home. Of course we can never totally predict how the baby will affect our lives because babies are all different. But if we have a routine established it at least gives us a chance to keep things as routine as possible for the big brother or sister.
Patience Is a Virtue
The last piece of advice I want to give you is this – be patient. Be patient with your child because sometimes they will get cranky just because of the baby. Be patient with yourself, and with the new atmosphere and changes in your home. It will take some time, but you will get used to all the changes and adjust to your new normal.
Don’t be surprised if your child goes through a time of regression. For instance, your son or daughter that is already potty trained may suddenly start having accidents or wetting the bed. Or, you may find that they suddenly want to take a bottle or a pacifier again. This is just a way for them to get some extra attention and make sure that your love hasn’t changed just because there is a baby to share it with now. If these things happen, be sure not to tell your child to “grow up.” Give plenty of love and encouragement, and always give extra praise when they act appropriately for their age. This time of adjustment is going to be hard for the whole family but it does get easier and boy is it sweet once it does.
Bringing a new baby home is a big adjustment for everyone, but for the big brother or big sister in the house it can be a scary time. However you choose to prepare your child for their new role, whether you use these suggestions or use your own methods, the most important thing is to be sure that your child knows how loved they are and that you will love them just as much as you always have – even after the baby is born!