Welcoming a new baby to your home is an exciting and sometimes overwhelming event for a family. Your family is growing and will be forever changed to a new “normal” the moment your baby arrives. Sometimes welcoming your second, third or even fourth child may be even more intimidating than your first as you have the added task of preparing older siblings for the big change. Here are 5 tips to lovingly helping your child adjust to the idea of a new baby before he arrives.
- Consider your child’s age and understanding level when deciding when to share the news: While older children will be able to conceptualize waiting 9 months for baby’s arrival, a toddler has a hard time understanding tomorrow versus one week from now. If your child is on the younger side, try telling him what season the baby will arrive in rather than how many months from now. For instance, “Next summer, when we can go to the pool again, the baby will arrive!”
- Find age appropriate books to share with your tot about welcoming a new sibling: There are a wide variety of children’s books (and programs) that are available and cover the topic of becoming a big brother or sister. Reading books about having a new baby can help your older child get excited about his or her new role as a sibling and aid in answering any questions they have about what it will be like. Reading books about being a sibling and new babies can also help your child learn ways that they can participate once the baby arrives which will help them realize that they play an important role in the family and as an older sibling. Depending on their age, your child may also want to know where the baby will come from and how he/she will get here. You should be able to find a variety of age appropriate books on this topic as well.
- Involve your little one in the preparations: Whether it’s helping you to choose decorations for the nursery, brainstorming favorite names or picking out some special toys for the new baby, letting your child participate in the preparation will help them to feel involved in this very important family event. If your child is old enough to understand, they may even enjoy coming to one of your check-ups and hearing the baby’s heartbeat on the fetal Doppler or feeling your tummy when the baby kicks.
- Encourage your child to share their feelings: You may think that your little one is too young to understand that the family dynamic will be changing with the arrival of a new baby but they are probably a lot more aware than you realize. Even toddlers can sense when something is different and their parents are anxiously preparing for something big to happen. Allow your child to have any and all feelings he or she might have about the impending changes and validate their feelings as best you can. For younger children who are not yet verbal, this may mean spending some extra uninterrupted time with them if they are acting out or simply allowing them to “be the baby” when they need to be.
- Make preparations for your child for when you go into labor well in advance: If you do not plan to have your child present for the birth of your baby, it is important that you make plans in advance for who will care for him while you and your partner are away. For many moms, this may even be the first time you’ve been away from your kiddo for an extended period of time which can be anxiety provoking for both of you. Talk to your child about the plans for when it’s time for you to have the baby and consider even doing a dry run. If they will be spending the night with a friend or relative, have them do a practice night where you can go and help them get acquainted with what the visit will be like. Similarly, if you plan to have a friend or relative stay in your home, make sure your child is well acquainted with them and that they understand how the night or nights with them will go. Your child may express feeling scared or upset about you being away either in advance or at the time that you are leaving. Lovingly acknowledge their feelings and remind them that you will be back in no time and that they will be able to visit you as soon as their new brother or sister arrives.
Welcoming a new baby to your family can be a scary prospect for everyone, especially when you’re going from one to two. However, with some thoughtful preparation for you and your child or children, everyone will have a better idea of what to expect and feel like they are an important part of the change. For questions about prenatal care, natural birth, postpartum care and all other women’s services, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.