Pregnancy can be a daunting time for both you and your children, and the thought of a new sibling can be a huge source of anxiety and uncertainty for children when they don’t know what to expect.
As a Mom of two girls, the one thing I was most nervous of when expecting my second was my first daughter feeling pushed out, replaced or less loved than she did before. I felt incredibly guilty about it and had a fair few sleepless nights filled with worry; despite her being incredibly excited to meet her baby sister.
During the third trimester in particular, I worked really hard to include her and take small steps to ensure she felt as involved in my pregnancy as possible. As a result, the addition of a second child to our family was actually very positive, and we didn’t experience the bouts of jealousy and negative behaviour that I had been warned to expect by friends.
From my own experience, here are some hints and tips on how to prepare your child for the arrival of their brother or sister.
Talk to your child about the baby – If they are old enough to understand, talking to your child about the baby and focusing on the positive aspects of being a big brother or sister can really help create some excitement around their arrival. Whilst older children will understand what is happening as your bump increases in size, younger children may not understand why Mom is physically changing, so a little reassurance about how and when the baby will arrive will help.
Let them ask questions – Your child may be concerned or worried about the baby arriving and the prospect of having to share their parents, having been used to your undivided attention for their entire life to date. Allow them to ask any questions they may have about their sibling’s arrival and answer them as honestly as you can. The more they know about what to expect the better, for example, the baby may cry, Mom will need to feed the baby regularly.
Include them in your appointments – If you can, or if your doctor allows, consider taking your child along to your prenatal appointments. Hearing the heartbeat of their sibling or seeing the outline of the baby on the screen in front of them can really help their understanding that the bump in Mom’s tummy is actually a little human being waiting to arrive.
Read to them – There are lots of great books to help prepare children for the arrival of a sibling, many of which will provide active reassurance about the range of emotions they will be feeling. Incorporating books about being a big brother or sister in to their bedtime routine will help reinforce the message that being a big brother or sister is exciting and not something that they should fear.
Involve them – Let your child help with packing the hospital bag and assist you with folding and putting the clean clothes away in the baby’s nursery. Make them feel involved and an important part of the process.
When baby arrives….
Consider a Big Brother Sister tee – When our second daughter arrived, we bought our eldest a T-Shirt with Big Sister on and she absolutely loved it. Not only does it feel like something special and new to wear, but it always elicits a reaction from friends and visitors, helping little ones feel real pride about being promoted to big brother or sister status.
When they visit the hospital
Greet them first – welcome your first born with a huge proud smile and introduce them to their brother or sister. Make them feel special. Try and avoid having the baby in your arms when they arrive as this may heighten feelings of jealousy. If you are physically able to, have a little cuddle with your firstborn before you focus on the new addition.
A gift from the baby – can often work really well, and again celebrate their new big brother / sister status. In terms of gift options, we found that some things to keep them occupied and entertained during those periods where your attention may be diverted were a good choice, such as sticker books, colouring in, and puzzles. You may also want to consider a doll – a baby of their own. They may want to act out caring for their own baby whilst you look after their sibling.
When you get home
Let them help – When you return home is where things can get interesting, as they may be confused when things don’t feel as ‘normal’ as they did before. Letting them assist with their sibling can prevent them from feeling ‘left out’ – passing diapers, entertaining the baby during clothes changes, or passing packets of wipes. All small and simple tasks, but it ensures they feel like a help not a hindrance, and that they are adding value and making life easier for Mom.
During Naptime – Try and spend some one on one time with your firstborn and help reinforce the message that Mom isn’t going anywhere and that you still love them just as much as you ever did. Cuddles on the sofa, playing together, or reading a book; consider the little things you would do prior to your baby being born.
Talk about things other than the baby – What is your little one’s favourite topic of conversation? Don’t let those chats stop now the baby has arrived. Try and maintain a sense of normality where you can, as this is what your child is used to. Encourage your guests to do the same, so that they don’t feel like the baby is the new center of attention.
Whilst there is no doubt that their sibling’s arrival will be a huge change in their life, these steps will hopefully help the transition go as smoothly as possible. This is where the fun begins!