Bringing a new baby home is most fun for the children who are waiting. Too young to yet understand a newborn’s limitations, the siblings are anxious to get down on the floor with him and wrestle or play trucks. But a new baby does little more than eat, sleep and poop. How can you prepare your older children for the newest addition? Here are some ideas for helping children welcome a new sibling:
- Ahead of delivery, talk about what the new brother or sister can and cannot do in concrete terms. Say things like, “Your new sister will not be able to play dollies with you right away. But you can help me rock her and pick out her clothes."
- Practice by being gentle with a baby doll. Show the children how to gently stroke the baby’s arms and legs, and then let them show you how gentle they can be. When the baby comes home, remind them that the baby is like the doll and they have to be gentle.
- Tell your kids that the new baby will not know anything so they will have to help her learn. Kids are good at teaching what they know. So, for example, your child could amuse the baby for a few minutes by assembling some toys, holding them up one at a time and naming them. The colors and textures will undoubtedly capture your baby’s attention and you can start dinner or take a quick shower.
- Going anywhere at first will be exhausting to the new parents AND the new baby. Explain to your children that you will be staying home for a while to catch up on rest and allow the baby time to adjust to being in a family.
- Another important thing to keep in mind during this time is that older children may become jealous of the new baby. You will be spending much of your awake time feeding, changing and snuggling with the newest member. Older children will undoubtedly become jealous and want time with you as well. Do your best to include them in rocking and snuggling times. Make arrangements for them to have special time with a grandparent or friend.
- Most of all, let your older children delight in the wonders of a new sibling. You will have fun telling them about themselves when they first were born. Get out old pictures and show your children that they, too, were really that small at birth.
Having a new baby in the house is certainly exciting. Although it can at times be overwhelming and exhausting, try to take some time each day to enjoy the fact that your children will have each other as siblings for a very long time.
Also remember during this transition time to take care of yourself Cut out anything that is not essential—like a clean house!—and allow people to help you. Friends will often offer to bring meals—let them! And in-laws are likely to offer to come stay for a bit and help in exchange for some baby time. Let them come! Let them take the night shift or a day shift so you can get some sleep! The more rest you get, the sooner you will start feeling like your old self again.
New babies are a most wonderful gift. By preparing for them ahead of time, everyone can get what they need and the transition to a family plus one will go smoothly.