Children handle the arrival of a new sibling in various ways, from doting and loving to indifferent, jealous or resentful. Of course the reaction to such a big change tends to depend on age, if there are other siblings in the family, birth order and their personality. Kids like routines and even more than that, your attention! Having a new baby can pose a threat to all of that. Here are a few ways you can help ease the transition:
Roll-play: Talk to your child about being a big brother or sister and how things may change once the baby comes. Using a doll, show your child how a baby is held changed, fed, swaddled, soothed and played with. Even though big brother or sister won’t be changing diapers, they will become familiar with what you are doing with the baby and hopefully feel excitement about the upcoming arrival. And be sure to explain that all babies cry and they cry because they cannot talk yet. (To a big brother or sister crying is a sign that the baby is hurt!)
Read books: Many children’s books broach the subject of a new baby in fun ways, including Mercer Mayer’s classic, The New Baby. Pick out a few at the library or bookstore and make it a point to read and discuss them with your child. This gives a sense of validation for any feelings your child may have about gaining a new member to the family and a great opportunity to discuss.
Get sibling involved: Whether you need to buy baby clothes or paint the nursery, get your child involved in the baby preparations. Have your child draw a picture for the baby. You can take this picture to the hospital and tape it onto the new baby’s bassinet. Many children love being given meaningful responsibilities like this and yours will likely take pride in helping you get ready to welcome the baby.
Be Prepared: Create a special basket (or several!) of age appropriate goodies for when you cannot give big brother or sister the attention they want. Paper and crayons, some fun new toys, books, and healthy snacks are good items to include. Take out this basket when you need some time to focus on your newborn.
Designate time together: Although it’s good to talk with your child about your new baby both before and after he arrives, it’s also important to focus some attention and time entirely on your older child””with no baby mentions at all! Create a weekly special day (think “Mommy and Me” Day) and designate a couple of hours to do doing something fun together. This attention will go a long way and give your child security in knowing she holds a very special place in your heart and the family as a whole.