There’s always a lot of preparation that goes in when you are waiting for the arrival of a new baby. If you are waiting for the arrival of your firstborn, there’re always things to get (baby products & stuff for you!) nursary room preparation and a whole lot more. If you are waiting for the arrival of your new baby after your firstborn, there’s still a bit of preparation even though you might have many things that you can reuse from your older child. As you go about sorting, cleaning and waiting, your firstborn might be wondering about the new changes that are taking place. As with anyone change and the arrival of a new family member can be difficult for your little one to understand.
Your attention being shared during your pregnancy and after the arrival of your newborn can cause older siblings to feel the change and these changes can manifest with feelings of jealousy and even mild anger. A new arrival to a family always brings about a lot of changes. The way your little one handles these changes will largely depend on how you prepared your older child for the arrival and of course the age of your older child.
It was very important that you let your little one know from the beginning that there will be a new family member soon. This should happen about the time you let you know your extended family and friends know. It is very important that you let your child know before he hears it at school from friends or from other known people. The impact the news will have on your older child largely depends on his age. If he is fairly young, as in a toddler himself, he might not fully understand or anticipate the changes ahead and of course the older they are, they would know better. As a parent, you would know the ‘right’ time to let your child know of the new arrival.
Here are some tips to help your older child welcome the new arrival:
- When & what you plan on telling your child about the new arrival is important. This is not a casual conversation, not one that you say as you are packing the school lunch or on the way to school when travelling. Make sure you plan ahead and anticipate questions. These questions can be many and may even be ones like ‘But why do we need another baby mummy?’ or ‘Mummy where do babies come from?’ Make sure you are seated and comfortable with nowhere to rush to. When speaking to your child, make sure that Daddy is there too and you make eye contact. That means, phones kept aside too! You will have to reassure him that things in term of your love, care and attention towards him, are not going to change. Explain that having a new family member means, he gets to be the older siblings and there’s ‘fun’ responsibilities (there’s no need to burden the child, you’re the parent and not him so main responsibilities are yours!)
- Going through old baby pictures of the first born. This helps the older child to connect with babies and helps him to understand visually what babies are like.
- When preparing for the baby get your older child involved. If you plan on using clothes used by your older child, get him involved with the sorting. This builds a connection and feeling of closeness with the new baby. It also teaches that sharing with the new sibling is an integral part of being an elder sibling. Additionally, it will ease them into accepting that the small baby may want to play and explore his existing toys. You can also show him pictures of himself in those clothes or pram when he was small. Most importantly, get him involved; ask him his opinion about whether he liked a particular toy when he was small and whether the new baby would like it too.
- You can also get him involved in packing the delivery bag. This is a lovely time to bond with your older sibling, revisit details about the day he was born and what it was like.
- Take him to see friends with small babies. Being up close with a baby who is small helps. If your little one hasn’t been around small babies, this would be a good time for you to help him understand what small babies are like. Often they will expect the baby to sit up and play cars with him the next day! If you let him meet some new babies, he’d have more realistic expectations about babies and what they are like.
- Let your little one read or talk to the tummy. We all know the benefits of babies listening to family members’ voices when they are in the tummies. Getting an older sibling to read to or sing to your tummy is a good idea because the older child starts to bond with the baby from a very early point and not just when he arrives.
- Help think of some names for the newborn. This is totally fun and in a very large context helps the older child feel connected to the newborn.
- Go in for an ultrasound or to hear the heartbeat. Check with your doctor if it would be possible to do one of the two. It should be a lot of fun and a wonderful experience for your older child.
- Make sure you have a plan for the delivery date. Most hospitals will allow you to bring in your older child to stay the night of your delivery. If however you feel that you might be too tired after your delivery and that you would want to keep him with the grandparents, plan ahead. Do not send him off for first time sleepovers on that day. Get him used to having sleepovers with grandparents or aunties and make sure he doesn’t feel like it’s the day the new baby comes and he’s sent away.
- Buy a gift. Have a gift ready for the older child to give the newborn. You can get him involved and ask him what he’d like to buy. You can also surprise him and get him a gift from the new baby.
- Reassure him that he’s always their baby too. Remember to tell him that though there’s a new baby around, he’s also your little one.
- Don’t let your child feel that he has to constantly do things for the new baby. Teaching your older child responsibility is a good thing, but make sure that they are age appropriate and that they aren’t something that they constantly have to do. You, as a mother, maybe tired after the delivery and sleepless nights, but your older child is not the parent, so don’t land him with unwanted responsibilities. Don’t constantly ask him to bring new diapers or throw diapers or to stop watching a cartoon because the baby needs to sleep in the living room. Think very carefully and do not disrupt the older child’s life unnecessarily.
- Have family time like before. Try to continue with family time as before. Go out for dinner, to the park, on vacation etc as before the baby.
Planning and being thoughtful towards the feelings of your older child will help him welcome the new addition to the family easily. Remember to always be there for your children to talk to, answer questions and generally spend time. Parenting can be hard, especially if you have night feeds and sleepless nights with a newborn. Nevertheless, how you behave will largely impact how welcoming your older child is to the new arrival as well as their future sibling bond.