Baby in the House
How to Help Your Children Welcome a New Sibling
The arrival of a new baby can bring many changes to a family. Parents spend a lot of energy on preparations and, after the baby arrives, much of the family’s attention involves meeting the newborn’s basic needs. All this change can be hard for older siblings to handle. It’s common for them to feel jealousy toward the newborn and to react to the upheaval by acting out. But parents can prepare kids for an addition to the family.
Discussing the pregnancy in terms that make sense to kids,
making some arrangements and including kids in the care of
the newborn can make things easier for everyone.
There’s no one right time or perfect way to tell a child about an expected sibling. When discussing the pregnancy, consider your own comfort level and your children’s maturity levels.
How much detail should you provide? Let your children’s questions be your guide.
Encourage your children to have a positive interest in the baby by sharing these activities:
• going through your child’s baby pictures
• reading books about childbirth (make sure they’re developmentally
• visiting friends who have infants
• packing a bag for the hospital
• thinking of potential baby names
• going to the doctor to hear the baby’s heartbeat
PLANNING FOR CHILDBIRTH
As your due date draws near, make arrangements for older kids for when you’re in the hospital. Discuss these plans so kids know what to expect when the day arrives.
Consider letting your children visit you in the hospital as soon as possible after the baby is born, ideally when no other visitors are around—this helps reinforce the birth as an intimate family event.
Try to keep routines as regular as possible in the days and weeks surrounding the baby’s arrival. If you plan to make any room shifts to accommodate the baby, make them a few weeks before your due date. If older kids are approaching a major milestone, like potty training or moving from a crib to a bed, try to make those changes well before your due date or
put them off until after the baby has been home for a while.
BRINGING THE NEW BABY HOME
Once the baby is home, you can help your other kids adjust to the changes. Include them as much as possible in the daily activities involving the baby so they don’t feel left out.
If your children do not express an interest in the baby, don’t be alarmed and do not force their interest. It can take time. Some new-baby tasks, like breastfeeding, exclude older kids. For these times, try to have toys on hand so that you can feed the baby without being interrupted or worrying about an older child feeling left out.
Try to take advantage of opportunities for one-on-one time with older kids. Spend time together while the baby is sleeping and, if possible, set aside time each day for the older kids to have a least one parent’s undivided attention. Knowing that there’s special time exclusively for them may help
reduce any resentment or anger they may be feeling toward the new baby.
Also, remind relatives and friends that your older children might want to talk about something other than the new baby.
DEALING WITH FEELINGS
With all the changes a new baby can bring, some older kids might struggle as they try to adjust.
Encourage older kids to talk about their feelings about the new baby. If a child cannot articulate those feelings, don’t be surprised if he or she tests limits or reverts to speaking in baby talk.
If an older child acts up, don’t bend the rules, but understand what feelings may be motivating his or her behavior. It could be a sign that the child needs more one-on-one time with you, but make it clear that, although his or her feelings are important, they should be expressed in appropriate ways.