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Preparing your little one for a new sibling
Saturday, January 28, 2012
How do I tell my child she Is going to have a new brother or sister?
You’re having another baby…how exciting ... but a little scary! You are wondering how to prepare your first child for the new baby. When should you talk about it? How many details should you share? Will you be able to handle two little ones?
The following tips will give you some guidelines to make this upcoming event run more smoothly.
It is never a good idea to spring something new on a sibling. Nine months will seem like an eternity if you start your discussions too early in the pregnancy. Depending on the age of the child, a good rule of thumb is to start the discussion in the middle of the second trimester. If you have morning sickness, fatigue, or there are changes in your child’s daily routine, you may have to share earlier. Remember, there will be lots of questions and one discussion won’t do it.
If you are anxious about this pregnancy, be careful not to let it spill over into the discussions. It is not necessary to share all the details. Find a friend to share your nervousness with. Children should be allowed to be children and not have to take on adult anxieties.
Discuss this event with age appropriate descriptions. You don’t need to get into a detailed sexual discussion with a 6-year-old. My parents talked about how much they loved each other and how they hugged each other real close a seed was planted in mommy’s tummy that grew into me! Maybe a little hokey, but it satisfied my curiosity. If your 2-year-old pats your tummy, tell her that this is the new baby and she is going to be a big sister. But remember, sometimes less is best. Too many details will go in one ear and out the other! Let your child’s age and comfort level govern your discussions.
No matter what the age of your child, tell her how exciting it will be as a Big Sister/Brother! Make this the big deal it is! You can even buy a shirt that says “I’m the Big Sister/Brother” and give it to your older child as a gift from the new baby when you bring her home from the hospital.
If your child is old enough to understand, discuss how she will be able to help mommy and daddy with the new baby. Talk about helping you feed her, burp the baby, help at bath time, etc. Try and prepare her in a positive way, making her feel like she will play a big part in this wonderful event. If she is not interested, don’t push it.
Get a few age appropriate books from the library about new babies and read them together. You can also watch videos about becoming a “Big Sister/Brother.” Blues Clues has a video called "Meet Blues' Baby Brother" that is a great tool to use when talking about a new baby. Also, some hospitals and libraries offer sibling preparation classes.
If your child is older, let her sift through her old baby toys to give to the new baby. Talk about how she will be able to teach the new baby to hold the rattle, play with the keys, etc. Reminisce about when she was a baby. Make this event special!
If you have friends with new babies, make a visit. Let her see that it’s okay for a baby to cry, that you have to be gentle, new babies take lots of naps, and she won’t be able to play with the baby at first.
If you are going to be in the hospital overnight, make sure your child knows who will be staying with her. This is not the time to have a new babysitter come and help you. If she is going to stay at grandma's or a friend's house, do a dry run. There is nothing worse than being in the hospital and getting that dreaded phone call that your child won’t stop crying and wants to come home.
Take your child to the store a few weeks before the delivery and let her buy a special gift to give to the baby when she comes home. Make sure she takes it with her if she is staying at grandma’s or a friend’s for safe keeping. This will help her feel like she is a part and give her “big girl” responsibility!
If you are giving birth at home with your child there, introduce her to the midwife, doula, etc. a few times before the event. Ask them to talk with your child if she is older, show her an age appropriate book, etc. And above all, decide ahead of time if you want her in the room during the delivery. There is nothing more frightening to a child than hearing her mommy screaming in pain and being ushered out of the room. While it is a personal decision, remember it can be very frightening for a child to hear or see their mommy hurting and not comprehending that this will result in a wonderful miracle!
If you are going to move your child into a “big girl bed” before the baby arrives, try and make the move at least three months before the baby is born. You want to leave enough time for this new adjustment. There is nothing worse than having two children crying in the middle of the night!
It your child is going to a new preschool after the baby is born, let her start a few months before the big event, if possible, and get used to the change. Too many new changes can be difficult for the entire family.
It is not necessary to shower your older child with lots of gifts when the new baby arrives. One or two gifts from the baby, mommy, and daddy for being a new “Big Sister/Brother” is plenty. Gifts don’t replace mommy and daddy’s love and attention.
Try and plan a special time for you and your older child while the baby is napping. A video and hot chocolate with marshmallows will make her feel just as special as the new baby! Try and plan a special "mommy and me" activity at least once a week. Coloring together or making pudding will convey your feelings of love. And don’t forget to ask daddy have his special time, too. The laundry and dishes can wait. Letting your child know how important she is will make for an easier transition.
Start a new ritual with your older child: sSomething as simple as cuddling with them for 10 minutes before bed each night, reading a special book in bed…something for just the two of you to share and show your love.
Don’t be upset if your child is jealous and tells you to “take that baby back.” This is all very normal. Some children think this baby has arrived to replace them.
Take a picture of your child with her new baby sister/brother and tape it to the baby’s crib as well as putting it in a frame for the new “Big Sister/Brother” to display in her room.
If your child is in preschool, ask her teacher to make a big deal of this new event. Send a picture of the two siblings to school for show and tell and maybe even one of the baby’s toys!
Above all, don’t feel guilty about not having the same amount of time to spend with your first child. As you adjust to having two children and working out a special time for your firstborn, you will see that quality versus quantity is what counts most. And don’t forget to say lots of “I Love You’s!”
Blythe Lipman is the president of Baby Instructions. She is passionate about babies, toddlers, and their parents. After working in the field for over 25 years, she wrote her third award-winning book, HELP! MY BABY CAME WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS, which is available at www.babyinstructions.com, www.Amazon.com, and all major bookstores . You can hear Blythe's weekly radio show on Wednesdays at 11:00 A.M. Eastern Standard Time at www.toginet.com. Blythe is available for in-home, video, and telephone consultations. Become her Fan on Facebook at Baby Instructions and follow on Twitter at BabyInstruction for a daily parenting tip.
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A new brother or sister is a time of adjustment -- and lots of love.