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As a parent a big reason many of us choose to have multiple children is because we want our children to have the bond that siblings create. However, once we actually become pregnant with that sibling…we start to worry. Will the older child be jealous of the new baby? Resent the new baby? Will I be able to give enough attention to them all? Is it fair to the older children to have to share me? Is it fair to the baby that I won’t be able to give them all my time and attention because I have an older child to care for too?
Here are some tips I have for preparing older children for a new sibling:
1. Perspective: More than anything else I think MY perspective makes the biggest impact on how our new baby will be received and viewed by siblings. Stop worrying about the concerns a new baby could bring and instead focus on the blessings of it. It’s a blessing that the older children will learn to share. That they won’t be spoiled and will have to learn patience when you are tending to the new baby. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty. Yes, it’ll be an adjustment for the children but soon having the baby in the family will be their normal and they, most likely, won’t even remember life without the baby in it!
2. Anticipation: You are pregnant for ten months. 10 long months. That’s a long time to be able to get your older children pumped up for a new sibling. In our home we talk about the future a lot and it’s fun to build excitement for upcoming events. We talk about our next Disney trip months before it actually arrives. The anticipation is half the fun! The same thing works with a new sibling. It’s an exciting time so talk about it! Build that excitement for your children! My kids were PUMPED for the baby to come and I think those last days of waiting to go into labor were probably more difficult for my son than for me because he was SO ready to meet his new sibling.
3. Preparation: Just as you talk to build anticipation and excitement, talking about the baby often is also a chance to prepare the older kids. Before our new baby was born even my two year old could tell you that babies can’t eat pizza 😉 She could tell you that babies will cry a lot and that Mommy will need her to be a helper. Changes WILL be happening in your home when a new baby arrives, by discussing the changes with the other children it helps prepare them for what is to come. When they know what to expect it will make the transition easier for them and more enjoyable for you!
4. Responsibilities: Children love to have a “job.” It helps them to feel important and valued! Find some sort of task your child can have when the baby comes. When I am pregnant we don’t find out the sex of the baby nor do we tell baby names. With our most recent addition we had our two year old tell everyone the sex of the baby after she was born and had our five year old announce the name of the baby. Both kids knew they’d have this special job and it made them SO excited for the baby to be born. They took pride in getting to make such a big announcement and talked about it daily. You can also have your older children help prepare your home for the baby. Both of our kids “helped” put together furniture in the nursery and it made them more excited for their new sibling to come home and see their hard work.
5. Books: We read a lot as a family so a wonderful way to prepare for the new baby is by reading lots and lots of books about it! I love how books focus on the role of a big sibling and help the older kids see the responsibilities they will have as a big brother or big sister. Some of the books we own and enjoy are:
- Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for Baby?
- I’m a Big Brother
- I’m a Big Sister
- The New Baby
- The Berenstain Bears and Baby Makes Five
6. Reward: I’m not big on gift giving with my children at times other than birthdays or Christmas, however I think it’s important for the new big sibling to have something special. During a time when so much attention will be on the new baby, it’s nice for them to be given a small gift to remind them that they are still super special and important! For our most recent baby I put together a bag for each older child with small toys and things I knew they’d enjoy and that I knew would entertain them during the early newborn stage when I’d be too tired and too busy nursing to provide much entertainment 😉 You can see what I included in the bags here!
7. Praise: Each child is different and special and you love them all equally but in different ways. Point out what makes them special and unique and why they will always be super special to you. I now have two daughters so I always tell my son that he’s my favorite little boy in the world and that he’ll always be special to me because he made me a mommy. With my older daughter I always tell her how special she is to me because she was my first daughter and how I always wanted a little girl and how thankful I am to have her. I make an effort to tell them these things daily. When I tuck them into bed at night I make sure I whisper sweet things to them as I want them falling asleep at night feeling loved and wanted and appreciated. Praise them for being helpers, for being quiet when baby is nursing, for doing something thoughtful without being asked, for obeying, for just being them!
Adding a new baby to the family is a big adjustment for everyone! It can take awhile before life adjusts and that’s okay. By helping prepare the older children for their new sibling you can make the transition easier on everyone and a happy experience!