How do I prepare my child for a new brother or sister?
Of all the life lessons that any child will face as they begin to ponder the world, perhaps the hardest one to realize is that they will not always be the center of the universe. Yes, for the only child who has been the apple of the adoring eyes of parents, guardians and grandparents, the concept of sharing attention and space with others in the big wide world can be a challenging period of growth — especially when there’s a new baby in the house. For young children especially, the idea of sharing time, space and especially parents can be a difficult adjustment. The good news is that parents and caregivers can easily prepare a child for their new brother or sister with these helpful suggestions.
Breaking the news: Because children aren’t able to process the concept of time at a young age, some experts say that expectant parents should wait awhile before telling a child that a sibling is on the way. However, some young children are much more perceptive than others and figure out pretty quickly that something is going on in the family. Regardless of when you do tell a child they will soon have a brother or sister, try to connect the arrival time to a specific time of year, like a particular season or holiday. That way the child can process the news in a way they can understand.
How to explain a new child is coming: The best way to explain a new child is coming is to keep the news as simple as possible. For example: “Mommy has decided to have another baby and you are going to be a big brother (or sister).” You can also talk about what a child can expect to see during pregnancy, such as mommy having a bigger tummy, decorating for a new nursery, etc. Curious children may also ask where exactly is the new baby coming from? There are plenty of books and articles (including this one: https://www.verywellfamily.com/where-do-babies-come-from-2753608) that can help explain the “birds and the bees” to a young child without going into too much detail. In addition, some hospitals have classes to help a child deal with the arrival of a younger sibling along with education on how to hold a baby and how to be a good older brother or sister.
Inclusion: Although some children may not act interested in the idea of a new baby in the house, many others will be very curious. If your child does express interest, you can include them in the excitement by reading books about childbirth, taking your child to visits friends who have infants and even having them help pick out a name for the new arrival.
As the Due Date Nears: As the big day draws near, a parent or guardian should make proper plans for older kids while the expectant mother is in the hospital. Be sure and discuss the plans with the young child so they will know what to expect. As soon as the baby is born, a new parent should try and have their child visit the hospital, ideally, when no other visitors are around. This special time together will help the oldest child feel part of the process and let him or her bond with the new sibling.
Bringing the baby home: Once a new baby comes home, a parent should try to include the older child in as many daily activities as possible to make sure they do not feel left out. Many children will also try and “help” out as much as possible, so be patient and try to make them feel part of the process in such tasks as changing diapers, picking up toys, etc. Always encourage safe, supervised interaction whenever you can, such as having your child talk to the baby, pushing the carriage, or helping dress or bathe the baby. Of course, there will be plenty of occasions like breastfeeding when a baby needs undivided attention, so be mindful to keep toys on hand or a special play time to keep the first born from feeling left out.
One on one time: Although new parents will be preoccupied with a new baby in the house, they should always take advantage of one-on-one time with the older kids. From special playtimes to spending time with the older child while the baby is sleeping, parents can do many things to help their older child feel just as needed and appreciated as the new arrival. Also, a new parent can remind visiting grandparents as well as aunts and uncles to pay special attention to the older child, so they don’t feel left out of the new baby excitement.
Adjustment time: Again, not every child will immediately welcome a new sibling in the house. With all of the changes happening within a household, some children may struggle to adjust to having a new brother or sister. However, this is when a parent or guardian should talk to the older child about their feelings. If a child acts up, be sure and keep the rules of behavior as they always have been, but also understanding where those feelings are coming from. The solution may be as simple as spending more time with the older child and letting him or her know they are loved just as much as the new baby.
To learn more about ways to help your child adjust to a new sibling, visit https://www.babycenter.com/0_helping-your-child-adjust-to-a-new-sibling_3636582.bc.
For 5 Tips to Help Your Firstborn Child Adjust to a new sibling, visit https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/06/12/new-sibling-adjustment_n_16971078.html.
Visit abcquality.org to learn more about child care and development, search for ABC Quality approved child care provider and learn about the state’s voluntary quality rating system. ABC Quality is administered by the SC Department of Social Services’ Division of Early Care and Education.
By ABC Quality Team at 16 Apr 2019, 11:00 AM