Welcoming a new brother or sister is a major change for your first born. After all, they’ve been the sole subject of your parenting energies for literally their entire lives! The prospect of sharing your home with a new baby can be both daunting and exciting for them.
Here are 5 strategies to help prepare to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone in your family. These are generally intended for children 4 & up, but you can adapt them to younger children according to their maturity level.
1. Let them know the baby is coming, tailoring to their perception of time. An older child who understands calendar time will be able to grasp a due date. Make it exciting by counting down the weeks or months together on a calendar.
For younger children, calendar time typically doesn’t register yet. However, many know basic seasons and will understand if you say the baby is coming based on seasonal cues, such as when it gets cold outside or when fall colors come. Remind them often of the big due date often with prompts like “what happens when the fall is changing this year?”
2. Include them in the process if they show interest, but don’t force it. If your child shows interest in their new brother or sister to be, run with it by including them where you can in preparing.
A few ideas for involving them:
• Let them help you pick out new baby clothes or ask them which hand-me-downs they think the baby will like most.
• Have them draw welcome pictures and cards for the new baby.
• Bring them to the doctor with you to hear the baby’s heartbeat.
• Let them pick out a special gift for their new sibling.
• Have them help you pack a hospital bag.
If they don’t show interest, don’t force it, but don’t avoid it entirely either. It often takes time for kids to come around. If you sense reluctance or fear on their part, you can gently address their concerns with them.
3. Make major routine changes in advance and gradually. Your schedule and routines will change when your newborn arrives, and thus so will your child’s. Anticipating and introducing changes in advance gives them time and space to adapt, reducing the shock when baby comes.
Some routine changes to anticipate and start early including room transitions, sleeping arrangements, potty training, and care-giver changes.
4. Communicate and celebrate the importance of their new role. When your family expands, children might fear being replaced, less loved, or left out. One way to counter these concerns is to emphasize that they have a special new status in the family too as a big brother or sister.
There are many excellent books that can help kick off this conversation. We recommend browsing through options at a book store, since the content is so varied; you’ll want to find one that reflects your family’s unique values and challenges.
5. Utilize outside resources. It takes a village! There are many valuable resources out there that can help you prepare your little one.
Here are a few to consider:
• Bring them to a family or friend who has an infant to teach them about how to interact with babies.
• Have play dates with children who get a long with their siblings well to give them peer role models.
• Look into orientation classes for siblings at hospitals and daycares.
• Check in with nannies and care-givers to learn what they’ve noticed about your child’s reaction to their sibling to be, and get on the same page about to handle preparation.
Best of luck to you and your family with the new bundle of joy! Our books and games, all packed with screen-less fun for kids, are on the way soon. Click here to stay updated.