Is Your Eldest Ready for a New Baby?
Preparing Your Older Child for a Sibling
Maintain a Stash of Emergency Goodies
Keep a few coloring books, mini Play-doh containers, puzzles, matchbox cars, and/or Etch-A-Sketch games hidden in a secret—yet easily accessible—location. Each time you need to tend to the baby and you notice your older child seems to be feeling a bit left out or needy, sneak a hand into the stash and pull out a surprise. This isn’t meant as a bribe to allow you to tend to the baby, it’s merely a distraction (and with young children, it will likely only be fun for ten minutes anyway).
Times when you need a moment to tend to the baby provide another opportunity for carefully chosen words. During moments when Aftosmis could not pay full attention to her daughter, she avoided using the babies as the reason. “I chose to say ‘Mommy can read to you just as soon as she is finished feeding the babies. It won’t take long at all,’ instead of ‘I can’t read to you now; I am busy with the babies.” This way, her daughter did not develop negative associations between her mom not being available and the arrival of her new brother and sister.
Be Easy on Yourself
The reality is that no matter how prepared you are and how hard you try, there are going to be moments—whole days perhaps—when it just doesn’t seem like you can do enough to reassure your child. You’ll wonder with each whine or tantrum whether or not it would be happening if you hadn’t had the new baby. Chances are, it would.
Remembers Strain, “There were of course moments when Cecilia felt left out or jealous of her baby brother, but we feel the strategies we used alleviated some of the anxiety.”
The younger your child is when the new baby is born, the less you may be able to prepare him ahead of time. He may not understand what’s happening until the baby is born. Once she is, the more challenging days are, in all likelihood, merely a result of your older child reaching an age of boundary testing that has nothing to do with there being a new baby in the house. The advantage to a child being young when a sibling comes along is that before long, he won’t be able to remember a time when the new baby wasn’t a part of your family. Identify age-appropriate ways for him to interact with the new baby such as singing her lullabies or helping to bring you a diaper.
For an older child who may be anxious about how this change will affect him, the opportunities for him to bond with the new baby, coupled with reassurance regarding how much he’s loved and how important he is, will more than likely create an amazing dynamic between siblings before you know it. More than one child has wanted nary to do with a new sibling until that magical day when, while thinking that no one’s watching, he slowly makes his way over to the baby and tickles or sings to him. The baby smiles, and that’s it. Big brother is hooked and a friendship has begun.
Out of curiosity, I asked my now five-year-old daughter (the one who correctly identified her brother’s spleen on ultrasound) what moms can do when expecting a new baby to make sure their older child doesn’t feel left out. She looked at me sort of strangely (at which point I quickly reassured her that I am not pregnant!), and then answered, as though it was the easiest question she’d ever been asked, “Just hug them, Mom.”
Additionally, remembers Aftosmis, whose babies initially spent some time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, “When my family got into the elevator to take the babies home, Brooke looked up and said—in the most endearing voice—’Mommy, we’re finally all together!’”
So there you have it—out of the mouths of babes. What children need more than anything else is to know that you love them. Tell them often. Hug them often. The best part of this strategy? It’s priceless.
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