A new baby brings so much to a family- including chaos and upset! There is no denying that gaining a brother or sister is, in the long run, an amazing event, but it must also be said that existing children may not always see it this way at first! There are many ways that you can prepare siblings for a new baby and often you will find that the settling in period is very short-lived after all. If you do think that your little one will need to be prepared, try these tips:
- Consider your timing. Depending on the age of your child, you may want to wait before you announce your pregnancy. Spend some time getting used to the idea of a new baby yourself before expecting your child to do the same. Remember that very young children will not have an adult’s concept of time, so if you start preparing them for a new baby at only 8 weeks gestation, you may find the next seven months drag very slowly when you are asked constantly where the baby is!
- Involve siblings in the pregnancy. This really helps some children to feel included in the whole thing. If you can, let your child come with you for the scan or to listen in on the heartbeat at one of your check ups. Share scan pictures and if you decide to find out the gender, ask your little one to help think of names. By keeping your child involved as much as possible, you are ensuring that nobody feels left out, as this can be of huge concern to some children.
- Talk, talk, talk. But don’t talk TOO much! It’s important to involve your child in your pregnancy, and to talk about the new baby as much as you can. The idea is to make the pregnancy seem as normal as you can, and for the idea of a new baby to be just as normal too. Keep an eye on your child’s responses though, as some children may tire of hearing about it all. The prospect of a new baby in the house can be very unsettling for some children and some may even feel jealous. This is all completely normal, so don’t worry- try to keep a good balance between preparation and over enthusiasm!
- Listen. No doubt your child will have lots of questions, so take the time to listen to them and answer them as best you can. If they are worried about anything, don’t dismiss it- instead, try to figure out ways to reassure them.
- Consider the logistics. If the new baby’s arrival means a room swap or a bed swap, this will need careful consideration. It’s important that your child doesn’t feel pushed out by this, so make sure you let them know that you need them to help you once they are the oldest child. If you need to make the move from crib to bed to prepare for the new baby, read our tips here first. Make sure you don’t force changes on your child before they are ready.
Once the new baby arrives, you may find that your oldest child finds the whole thing a little overwhelming. Try to keep things as normal as possible and keep routines and schedules as normal as possible. Bedtimes and day time naps should be consistent so that good sleep habits are maintained. You only need one child up during the night at once! Let your child help you with the baby as much as possible and try to spend as much quality time together as possible.
Ultimately, all children get used to having a new baby in the family- they really have no other choice!- but at times it can seem like a huge hurdle to overcome. Stay patient, try to understand your child’s feelings, and keep calm. Eventually you will come to see that the relationship between siblings can be amazing!