There’s a new baby coming! Everyone in the family is excited–except, perhaps, your older children. Depending on their ages, they may be oblivious to the impending event, excited to have a sibling, or leery of all the attention this new baby seems to be getting even before it’s born.
Whatever the case, changes are a-coming. Check out these four steps to prepare the older siblings.
Choose Your Timing
While you may want to scream the news to the world the minute you see the double-lines, consider taking a breath. Younger children have only the vaguest sense of time, so if you announce there’s a baby coming, a toddler or preschooler will be expecting it right away. Eight or nine months is an eternity to them–an eternity to hear about the upcoming event as well as fret about how it will affect him or her. The best-practices rule is that the younger the child, the longer you should wait to break the news.
Of course, this plan of action isn’t always possible if there’s a risk that a relative or a friend will let the cat out of the bag. And certainly, you should tell your school-age children as soon as you make the announcement. They will likely want to be involved in the preparations.
Get Stuff Done Before The Birth
The baby’s arrival is going to change the dynamics of the family, no doubt about it. It’s a good idea to take care of as many issues that may affect the older siblings long before the new baby is born. This will avoid elements of stress during the difficult months to follow and perhaps prevent the older siblings from acting out in order to gain attention. These changes may include:
- Shuffling bedrooms to make space for the baby
- Potty training an older child
- Introducing a new babysitter, nanny, or daycare routine
- Transition from crib to bed for a toddler
Set Aside Special Time For Your Preschooler
Children of two to four years of age may have the most difficult time with the idea of a new sibling. They’re old enough to understand that a change is coming, but they’re also just becoming aware of their separateness and uncertain about sharing love and attention.
- Setting aside extra time with your preschooler to cuddle and play
- Showing them their own baby pictures so they better understand what is going to happen
- Preparing them honestly by letting them know that the baby will mostly sleep and eat and cry at the beginning
- Empathizing with your child’s concerns and being patient with any regressions such as “baby” behavior
- Involving your older child in big brother/sister preparations, like letting her pick out clothes or toys for the new baby
Ask For Help
There’s only one of you. No matter how hard you try, you cannot give two or more children the same amount of attention you can only give one.
Prepare your older children for the disruption by making sure your partner and perhaps your extended family can pitch in. Perhaps your children could spend a weekend at grandma’s house to strengthen those bonds. Perhaps your partner can take over the bedtime stories in the later weeks of the pregnancy so that when the baby comes, and you’re busy breastfeeding, the change won’t be disruptive. Anything you can do to shift the day-to-day routine to better reflect the changes in store will help make a smoother transition.