Preparing for the arrival of a new baby can be overwhelming and even more so when it isn’t your first child. Instead of just worrying about how you are going to adjust to being a parent, you are worrying about how your first born will adjust to being an older sibling. Will they welcome their baby brother or sister with open arms or react with anger and jealousy? While there is no way of knowing exactly how your child will react to a new baby in the household (and a lot of it depends on their age) there are several things you can do to prepare them for the big arrival.
Get your Little One Involved
From the moment that you inform your child that they will be getting a baby brother or sister, you should involve them as much as possible in the preparation process. Here are some ideas for ways you can include them:
- Take them shopping for baby items with you. Let them pick out some clothing and supplies for the new baby.
- If possible, bring them along to some of your doctor appointments so that they can hear their baby sibling’s heart beat or see them in action in an ultrasound.
- If they are a little bit older, educate them about pregnancy and what is going on in your body. If you are adopting, explain to them how this came to be and what adoption is all about. Encourage them to ask questions so that they will feel invested in the new baby.
- Encourage them to talk to the baby and kiss your belly if you are pregnant.
- Once baby arrives, have them help with diaper changes and feedings (if they’re up for it) and make sure you reinforce how proud of them you are.
Spend Time Around Other Babies
If your child has never been around an infant before, then now is a great time! If you have friends or family members with new babies, take your big kid and go for a visit. Explain that their new sister/brother won’t arrive “ready to play.” Show them that new babies do a lot of crying and eating and wiggling and that’s about it. Teach them the importance of being gentle with a new baby.
Buy them a Baby Doll / Role Play
If your older child is a toddler still, a baby doll can be a great learning tool for them (yes, even for boys). Encourage them to practice changing their baby doll’s diaper, feeding them, and rocking them to sleep. Explain that once their baby sibling arrives they’ll be able to help out with a real baby. Role playing with a doll can be a great way to nurture big brother/big sister skills.
Read them Big Sibling Books
There are many great books out on the market geared towards preparing children for a new baby brother or sister. A cute story and fun pictures can go a long way in explaining what’s about to happen in their life.
Bust Out their Baby Book
A great way to explain the whole “new baby thing” is to show your child photos of them as a new baby. Pull out their baby book or photo album and talk to them about the day they were born and how excited you were to meet them. Tell them stories about their first few months alive to help paint a picture of what to expect from their new baby sibling.
Get them Excited to be a Big Brother or Big Sister
Deep down you know that those first few weeks with a newborn can (and will) be tough, but you need to push beyond that and get your big kid excited for becoming a big brother/sister! Talk up how important of a job it is to be a big sibling – how they are going to be mommy’s helper and how much the new baby is going to love them. Tell them stories about how they will run and play with their little bro/sis once they get older and will become best friends. Buy them a fancy “Big Sister” or “Big Brother” shirt that they can wear proudly on the day they meet the new baby and take them shopping or have them make something to give to the baby after he/she arrives.