As I mentioned yesterday, I have devoted this week’s blog posts to sharing the various ways in which I’m preparing myself, my family, and my house for the arrival of baby boy #3. In addition to stocking my freezer with delicious meals, I have also been very focused on preparing my older two sons for what is about to happen. I know that the transition will not be easy!
Admittedly, I am no expert on this subject. I have tried to educate myself by doing some research, talking to our pediatrician, and just generally tapping into my past experience. However, when I brought home baby #2 about two years ago, my oldest son was only 17 months old and was still a baby himself! Gibbs was too young to understand what was happening and it made for a very rocky adjustment. Now, with an almost-four-year-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old, I’m confident that I can be a bit more proactive in easing the transition for my boys.
Here are my Tips for Preparing Siblings for a New Baby:
1. Get the Siblings Involved Before and After the Baby Arrives. The more warning, the better! Don’t spring this new concept on your older children at the last minute. Instead, give them time to think about, process, and get used to the idea of another baby joining the family. How should you “get the siblings involved?” Try these ideas:
- Show your children ultrasound photos, or take them to a prenatal appointment with you (if they’re old enough).
- Allow the siblings to pick out clothes and other baby gear for their new sibling. My boys thought that it was fun to throw diapers, pacifiers, and bottles into the shopping cart!
- Repeatedly talk about what the baby might look like and the personality that he or she might have.
- Once the baby arrives, give the older siblings a “job” so that they feel involved and useful. Let young children “hold” the baby (with supervision, of course!), fetch diapers at changing time, or even bottle feed the infant when appropriate.
2. Read Books! Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I’m a huge fan of using books to teach lessons to young children. Reading aloud and discussing a book sparks great questions and draws out concerns that your kids might not otherwise be able to articulate. Here are some of the “new baby” books that my boys have enjoyed:
The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby by Stan and Jan Berenstain
The New Baby by Mercer Mayer
I’m a Big Brother by Joanna Cole
3. Make Any Changes to Sleeping Arrangements Well in Advance of the Baby’s Arrival. Since you don’t want your older sibling to resent the new baby, or to negatively associate unpleasant changes with the baby’s arrival, be sure to make any adjustments to your child’s sleeping arrangements well before the little one comes. We moved Casey out of the nursery and into a bunk bed with Gibbs in “the big boy room” about 4 months before baby #3 was due. The boys were excited to be sharing a room, Casey felt proud to be a big kid, and there was absolutely no sense that he was being “kicked out” of his crib because someone else needed it!
If you have an older sibling that is still enjoying his crib, I would definitely suggest that you buy a second crib for your new baby. Do not “rush” the older child out of the existing crib if he’s not ready. That will just create a whole host of other problems that you do not need to deal with!
4. Role Play – Especially for Girls. Give your older child a baby doll of her own. Teach her how to change the doll’s diaper, feed the doll a bottle, and rock the doll to sleep. This will allow her to "participate” when your hands are busy with a little one!
5. Make Your Older Children Feel Special. The big kids will likely be jealous, angry, or confused when an infant appears on the scene. Make the older children feel special by reminding them of all of the privileges afforded to big kids, such as watching movies, playing with “big kid” toys, chewing delicious foods, and running around outside. The boys and I regularly discuss the fact that the new baby will not be able to eat their snacks, take their matchbox cars, or play with them in the sandbox (yet!). Instead, we talk about what they can expect from the baby: a lot of crying, a lot of nursing, and a lot of sleeping!
6. Carve Out Alone Time for the Big Kids Once the Baby Arrives. Even if it just means that you spend 20 minutes of one-on-one time with your older child while the baby sleeps, this quality, focused attention will go a long way towards reminding your big kid that you still love him and want to spend time with him. Along those same lines, don’t necessarily drop everything at the first peep from your newborn. Remind your older child that he is important too by allowing the baby to cry while you finish a conversation or activity with your big kid.
7. Maintain the Big Kids’ Routine as Much as Possible. A new baby adds plenty of stress and upheaval to a house, so try hard to maintain as much “normalcy” in your big kids’ routines as possible. Children find great comfort in predictable, repeated schedules, so sticking to their previous routines will be extremely important in the first weeks after a new baby is born.
8. Have a Small Gift for the Older Siblings from the New Baby. I have been pulling together a few small items for each of my “big boys,” which I will put in gift bags. When the boys come to meet their new brother at the hospital, they will receive the gifts from the baby. Hey, it can’t hurt to for the boys to have a positive first impression of their sibling, and it’s just one more way to make them feel special (and not forgotten!). Here are a few ideas to include in your sibling gift bag:
- Candy, snacks, or other favorite treats
- A new DVD: since I will be spending a lot of time on the couch nursing a baby in the early days, it will help to have some new entertainment for the big kids.
- New Books: again, since I will be spending a lot of time on the couch nursing a baby, it will be nice to have some new books that I can read to my older children at the same time.
- Stickers, markers, and other art supplies: your big kid will likely have more time than usual to entertain himself, so some quiet activities will be helpful.
- A doll. See #4 above.
- Disposable cameras. Get the big kids involved in taking pictures of their new sibling, their other family members, and each other. I'm looking forward to seeing what my boys capture on these little cameras!
- A car, truck, tractor, or other favorite toy. Because let’s be honest: nothing makes my boys happier than a new vehicle!
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