Many families seek guidance on the best ways to prepare a sibling for the arrival of a baby. Concerns for the wellbeing of the sibling run high in anticipation of changes that this permanently shifted family dynamic can bring. However, these changes can be positive! There are steps that can be taken ahead of time in order to prepare the older sibling slowly for the change, ultimately heightening a sense of welcoming and excitement for that new sweet arrival. The good news is that most of us can reflect on our childhood and share innumerable positive memories because of our brothers or sisters!
One suggestion for families to prepare for their new arrival is to make gradual proactive changes within the routine of the sibling as the pregnancy develops. If your child is currently sleeping in a crib but approaching an age when moving into a toddler bed would be appropriate, consider implementing that change before the new baby arrives. Similarly, families may choose to implement the process of toilet training if the sibling shows signs of being developmentally ready. If these changes are not possible prior, consider waiting for some months after the birth before implementing more changes.
It is important to share aspects of the pregnancy experience with your child as a way of building strong and meaningful connections with the growing baby. Talk to your child about how your baby is growing, and that they can hear voices, especially loving and nurturing ones. If your child is of the toddler age, introduce picture books of babies and families and share stories surrounding babies. Older toddlers and preschool-aged children may require more detailed frontloading to prepare for the arrival of the baby. Over the course of your pregnancy, discuss the many needs of a newborn and encourage your older child to think of ways they could assist. Pull out photos or videos of your child as a newborn to provide further connection and understanding. Children of this age like to feel challenged and empowered. Use this information as an exciting launching post for your child to participate in some of the daily requirements. Perhaps your child can help prepare the room for his or her sibling. Choosing pieces of your child’s own artwork to frame and display and helping in the bedding selection process are two examples to prepare your child. Take your child shopping to select a special gift for his or her new baby.
Connect with your child consistently every day throughout the pregnancy and after. Share loving moments in which you are present in the moment, playful, and offering physical connection. Jealousy is a natural response when a child feels threatened by the attention family members must provide to a newborn and it is essential that your child continues to have some quality one on one time with family members.
When the baby arrives, consider framing the first introduction with the need for added connection on the part of your older child. You may want to ensure another family member is present to hold the newborn baby while you get to hold your child. Likely, you were missed while in the hospital and there may some anxious feelings surrounding your absence and upcoming change. Big hugs and individualized connecting can help dissipate these hesitant feelings. Encourage your child to present the baby with his or her own very special gift to begin the bonding experience.
As your baby grows, and your older child begins to understand new routines, continue to connect with each child individually throughout the day, as well as together. When the childcare experience resumes, welcome your older child to introduce his or her new baby to the childcare family! The bonding experience between siblings is amazing, and when founded on trust and security, it can blossom!
Author: Sharon Pauwels – Education Coach