February 15, 2010
by Debra Bacon
By Debra Bacon
Remember the first time you were expecting a child; you couldn’t wait to tell everyone! Now another baby is on the way. The excitement is just as fierce as the first time, but there is more to consider than sharing the news with friends and extended family. Big brother or sister must be prepared for the “new” baby’s arrival.
Telling your child becomes as big a responsibility as other preparations of the upcoming birth. The child has been accustomed to being the focus of mom and dad’s love and attention. To have this focus shared with another is usually upsetting for the sibling to be.
Often parents will wait until the last few months of the pregnancy to tell the child about their sibling’s birth. The pregnancy is more stable, and it is getting closer to the time of delivery. Moreover, children’s concept of time is not as refined as adults. They can better understand seasons more than weeks or months, depending on their age.
No Longer the Baby, but a Sibling
Prepare your child in ways they can understand. For example, if one of their playmates has had a baby born into their family recently, use the situation as an example.
Following are some tips to help a child prepare for the birth of a sibling:
- Tell them the new baby will be coming home with you from the hospital, and will be living with all of you as a family.
- Explain how the child can help in the process of caring for the infant. Let them know the importance of an older sibling’s role in the family.
- Use age appropriate books to help the child understand what it means to be a brother or sister. How they interact and help each other, share things; even their parents.
- Include the child in the plans for the baby’s room, if appropriate.
- Talk to them about some names you are considering.
The Hospital and Birth
Ensure your child knows you will be in the hospital for a few days and that it is normal. This will help eliminate anxiety they may experience about your safety and health. Talk about where they will be staying during this time, and how they can come and visit you while there.
Plan for your child to visit you and the baby at a time specifically designed for the immediate family only. Introduce them to their new sibling and allow them to touch and possibly hold them with assistance, if appropriate.
Have the other parent care for the newborn while you spend time focused on your child, to answer any questions they may have, or just have quality time together.
When bringing the baby home, make it a celebration where the big brother or sister is involved. Allow them to lead you and the baby to their new room, and show them around, or offer the baby a gift they have made for them. If the child is not interested there is not a need for concern. Change takes time and they will come around.
Since your schedule will be interrupted with the newborns needs, take advantage of times where you can spend uninterrupted time with the newborns sibling. During feeding times, make sure your child has toys or other items of interest, so that they are entertained. This will help in keeping them from feeling they are not involved, or are left out.
With time, the schedule will begin to flow and the family will take on its new shape.