“My mommy has a baby in her tummy and I’m going to be a big sister,” exclaims (insert name here)! This expression of wonder and joy captures one of many thoughts and emotions to come from new siblings.
The announcement that parents are expecting is an event that is celebrated in many ways throughout the country. There are family traditions, baby showers, visits to midwives and doctors as well as various preparations that take place in the home. With the impending arrival of a newborn comes the opportunity to respond to the emotional needs of the older child who may need your help adjusting to a new family dynamic. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Prepare your child
- Maintain realistic expectations
- Create special experiences
Prepare your child in age-appropriate ways for the new addition to the family. Share information about the pregnancy using words to help them understand the changes that are occurring in mom’s body and the new activities or changes in the families’ schedule or routines (i.e. doctor’s appointments or naps for mom). There are many excellent children’s books written specifically for siblings of all ages. Think about what you and your family are comfortable providing as shared experiences for your child and elicit support from your health care provider to plan for these in advance.
Maintain realistic expectations for your child. While some children welcome the arrival of a sibling, others become upset and anxious. Some children begin to regress, for example, by having bathroom accidents or using “baby talk.” Be patient with your child and offer reassurance that there will always be a special place for them in your heart. Some parents find that sharing pictures and stories of when they were a baby is fun. Celebrating all that they can do now helps children to feel more secure about your love and their place in the family.
Also, inform your child that the new baby will not be an immediate playmate. Creating ways that they can help you to care for the new baby is of great interest to some children. For example, using dolls to show how to hold the baby gives them a sense of what to expect.
Create special experiences that allow for one on one time with the older sibling during the pregnancy and afterwards to provide continued reassurance. This can be 5-10 minutes of quality, uninterrupted time with each parent on a regular basis. Be sure to encourage family members and visitors to acknowledge both children with attention and special gifts.
By paying attention to the emotional needs of the older sibling, you are laying the foundation for all family members to be recognized and appreciated for their uniqueness.
There’s Going to Be A Baby by John Burningham
The New Baby by Mercer Mayer
Where Did That Baby Come From by Debi Gliori
Do You Still Love Me? By Charlotte Middleton
No, Baby, No by Grace Nichols