By Adrienne Durkin
The arrival of a new baby is a big transition for any family, and for a young child, welcoming a new sibling can be challenging. It is common for children to feel apprehensive and sometimes jealous, and it is not uncommon for children in this situation to act out.
Fortunately, parents can help prepare their children for an addition to the family in many ways. Although there is no “perfect time” to break the news, setting aside time to have a conversation and answer questions is critical.
If your child doesn’t have lots of questions right away, don’t force the issue. They might need time to process the news in their own way. When they are ready, they will ask questions. Take time then to talk with them.
If they are immediately interested, there are many things that you can do to help them think about the transition in a positive way.
* Show them baby pictures of themselves when they came home from the hospital.
* If you have a friend or family member with a newborn, take your child to visit.
* Take your child to a doctor’s visit so that they can hear the heartbeat.
* Would your child like to help you think of potential baby names?
* Read books to your child about becoming a big brother or big sister.
* Have a baby doll that can play the role of your infant. Pretend play about holding the baby and setting up some ground rules can be very helpful.
If you have to make room adjustments, do them as early as possible. This will allow for your child to settle in before the baby arrives.
More and more hospitals now offer sibling preparatory classes. These classes usually teach children how to hold a baby, explain how a baby is born, and offer a chance for kids to express how they feel about this big change. If you can, take your child to a class. It is a great way for them to learn about the process, and it is a chance for them to meet other kids going through the same experience.
As the baby’s arrival grows closer, make arrangements for your child while you are in the hospital. Make sure that they understand what the plans are, and that they are comfortable with them.
Once the baby is born, bring your child to the hospital to meet the baby as soon as possible, preferably when no one else is around. Make the time special.
When the baby comes home, try to keep to your child’s regular routine as stable as possible. When the baby is napping, spend one-on-one time with your older child. Setting aside a certain time each day to do something special. It can be as simple as reading a short book or doing puzzle. Giving them something to look forward to doing with you each day can be very reassuring.
Enjoy the journey! It will be an adventure for all of you.
– Adrienne Durkin is the author of the Sam and Coodles series. Sam and Coodles: The Room at the End of the Hall was created when Adrienne and her husband moved their son from the nursery outside their bedroom to a room down the hall when they were expecting their second child. Adrienne wanted to create a series of books for young children getting new siblings, starting before the baby is born and continuing after the new baby comes home. For information on the series, visit SamandCoodles.com.