How to Prepare Older Siblings for Your New Baby

Older Sibling New Baby

PREPARING SIBLINGS FOR THE NEW BABY'S ARRIVAL

There is no doubt the arrival of a new baby brings significant changes to a family. When your first baby is born dynamics change as you move from a couple to a family. When subsequent children arrive changes happen again only this time around you have little people's feelings to consider as well as your own.
 
A new baby undoubtedly brings disruption and changes to normal daily routines. Much of the family's attention is now focussed on meeting the needs and demands of the new baby. It is common therefore for older siblings to feel jealousy towards their new baby brother and sister and often they can react to the upheaval by misbehaving.  
 
There is no right time to tell your children about your new baby and how you tell them will invariably depend on the child's personality, age and maturity level. It may also depend upon what number baby is arriving in the family. If older children have experienced the arrival of a new baby before then it will be familiar to them whereas if it is number two child then it is unknown territory for all involved.
 
Whatever age your children are, preparing them for the new arrival is important. How much detail you go into is really up to you. Be aware of what you know your child will understand and make the information appropriate for them. For example toddlers haven't grasped the concept of time yet so telling them the baby will arrive in a few months may mean nothing to them. However, the due date is near a particular event they know such as Halloween or Easter they may have some understanding.
 
Remember you don't have to go into too much detail initially. Let the information be absorbed by your child and let them come to you with questions they may have and be open to answering them.

ENCOURAGE THE FOLLOWING ACTIVITIES

Listening to baby's heartbeat

If your child shows interest in the new baby encourage the following activities:
  • Show them their own baby book/pictures. Pictures of when they were first born, first few days at home, first bath, hospital tag etc. 
  • Visit friends who have new babies and if appropriate maybe let them hold the baby (with supervision of course!)
  • When reading books maybe talk about some of the characters in the book and ask whether they like that name or ask them what they think would be a good name for the new baby.
  • If there's an opportunity and it's appropriate bring your child along to your doctors appointment. Try and involve them in what's happening by perhaps letting them hear the baby's heartbeat or rubbing gel into your belly if having an ultrasound.
  • Let them get involved in helping you pack your bag for the hospital. For older children you might give them a list to get everything together whilst for younger children you might have everything ready and just let them help.
  • Encourage older children to discuss their feelings about having a new brother or sister. Be open to hearing about how they feel. Just because they have moved away from the toddler years and perhaps understand a bit more, doesn't mean they won't be affected by the disruption.

PLANNING FOR CHILDBIRTH

As your due date approaches make sure you have made arrangements for your older children. Arrangements will need to be made for when labour starts through to when you leave hospital with your new baby. Explain to your children how long this may be and discuss the plans with them so they know what to expect. 

After your baby arrives try to set aside a time when just your own immediate family visit first. I know this is hard to do as everyone wants to visit as soon as they hear the news but by having only immediate family there initially will help you talk to your children about their new brother or sister and give them the one-on-one time they might need. 

Before your due date try to keep to the normal routines. Avoid doing anything new. If there needs to be room changes made in the family home to accommodate the new baby do these a few weeks beforehand. The same applies if your children are approaching a major milestone such as potty training or moving from a cot to a bed. To minimise any upheaval ensure these are done a few weeks before baby's arrival or delay them until after the baby has been home awhile.

BRINGING YOUR NEW BABY HOME

Meeting New Baby

Some children will just love to 'help' with the new baby. Although the term 'help' may not always be the case and things may take longer be positive and encourage them to be involved if they want to be. Activities may include entertaining their new baby brother or sister on the change table or pushing them in the pram or helping to pick out their clothes and dress them. If on the other hand your child doesn't show any interest in the new baby, don't force it and let things happen in their own time. 

Some activities such as breastfeeding may make older kids feel excluded. For these occasions try to have toys to hand so you can feed without disruption. If they feel left out during these times make sure you have some set aside some one-on-one time for them when the baby asleep to help reduce any jealousy or anger about the new baby. Also, in these one-on-one times talk about something other than the new baby and if friends and relatives are looking to help out, why not suggest a special outing for the older children.

SUMMARY

Although there may be a few teething problems initially within the family when a new baby arrives, eventually everyone learns to get along with one another and adapt and it slowly becomes the norm. In time all siblings will hopefully love playing with one another and become the best of friends as they grow and learn from one another.

Click here to view our cards - when sending out thank you cards following the arrival of a new baby make everyone feel involved and part of the family by including a picture of your new baby with their sibling(s) as well as one on their own.