How to Prepare Your Older Children for a New Baby
A new baby brings joys and challenges to a family. You're excited, but you may also be nervous about how your older children will react to the newborn.
One question that comes up is "How should we tell our older children?" This can lead into all sorts of discussions like what age they are or if they know anything at all already (some kids might find it out on their own!). Wherever this discussion leads though there's one thing for sure:
They need time with mum/dad more than ever!
Maybe even just some extra attention from them while other siblings get busy playing together in the days before Christmas break begins?
Children of different ages will react differently to a new baby
Having a little insight into what's going through the minds of your kids will make it easier to handle changes in your family.
Toddlers - Ages 1 To 2 Years
When you have a new baby in the house, it can be hard to keep everyone happy. But if your child is old enough, try talking about this "new baby" and showing them that you're excited too! Your excitement will rub off on the toddler and they'll feel just as thrilled with all of these changes happening around here. It may not always work out perfectly—especially when both children need attention at once-- but don't forget we're surrounded by lots of love from family members who want to help us out anytime they can.
* If you want to know what it’s like for your child when they get a new sibling, try reading picture books with them about the experience of having a brother or sister. They will learn words such as "sister," "brother," and even “new baby."
* When you welcome the new baby into your family, try to do something special for your older child. Reassure them that they are still loved and give them a gift or take them someplace wonderful so they can spend time with dad, grandma, another adult who loves them very much!
Preschoolers - Ages 2 To 4 Years
In preschool, your child is still very attached to you and does not yet understand how to share you with others. Your child also may be sensitive to change! Here are some suggestions that will help make them feel more comfortable as a big brother or sister:
1) Let the other parent know about what’s working for their toddler so they can do it too 2) Help identify similarities between themselves and the sibling 3) Introduce new toys 4) Give hugs 5 ) Praise behavior.
* Keep in mind that your preschooler might not understand what's coming. Explain it to them when you start buying nursery furniture or baby clothes, if they start asking about Mum's growing "stomach." It can help to read picture books for kids his age and attend sibling classes (ask the hospital if they offer them). Wait as long as possible before telling a child who is too little - remember, though, that someone else may tell them first!
* Your child will be excited to meet the new baby. You should explain that babies are cute and cuddly but they cry a lot, which means taking care of them takes a ton of time and attention so your older kid may not get as much from you for awhile. Make sure your kids know we'll love them just as much after the baby is born!
* Involve your preschooler in planning for the baby. This will make them less jealous and it's a great way to teach them how to take care of their own babies when they grow up! Let them shop with you for baby items, show them their old pictures - he'll be so happy seeing themself as such a little cutie pie (and then he might even want some more!).
* Take some time to prepare your child for the arrival of their new brother or sister. You might want to finish up toilet training, switch from a crib bedding set-up. Make sure you plan ahead though - this is not something that can be done on top of all those changes caused by having another baby in the house.
* You might find your kids start misbehaving a little. For example, you toilet trained child may suddenly want to wet the bed or take a bottle. This is completely normal because they are trying to get back some of that attention and love from before when they were babies! Don't be too mad with them. Just think of this as an opportunity for them to act more grown up too by using "big boy/girl" potty words like pee, poopie poo-poo (or whatever their names would be). You can also show off how much progress he has made with his new found independence so do not forget those pictures on Facebook either!
Expectations change over time as children grow into adolescents and adults:
* Talk to your child about what it means when you are in the hospital, and how they can help by taking care of things at home. Let them know that if their sibling gets a little upset or angry because Mummy is gone for a few days with new baby sister/brother then he should talk to his other parent - like Daddy while I'm away.
* As your child grows, they need more attention. So make sure to set aside time for them and engage with them in different ways, whether it be reading a book or playing games! Let them know that you love them by spending quality time together. It's also important to let the older sibling feel like he is just as much of part of the family.
* Having a new baby in the house means you need to be extra attentive and inclusive of your older child. Make sure they feel like a part of things by asking family and friends to spend some time with them when they come over, or alternatively give them small gifts too!
* Investing in father-child time is a great opportunity for fathers. The new baby presents an amazing chance to spend quality time with the older children and it's good for both of you!
School-Aged Children - Ages 5 and above
The older your child is, the less threatened they will be by a new baby in their family. However, it's still important to prepare them for this change and make sure there are plenty of ways for them to feel special too!
Children can sometimes get jealous when another sibling enters the picture - but with these tips you'll have all bases covered so that everyone feels loved!
* Tell your child what is happening in a language they can understand. Explain that you are going to have a baby and this means someone new will come into the house, but it also means there might be some changes for her too like more time with Mummy or Daddy during the day- which could mean playtime together!
* Why not have an older child help get things ready for the new baby by fixing up your nursery, picking out some clothes or buying lots of nappies?
* It's always a great idea to have your older child visit the hospital as soon after birth as possible. If they can't come, send pictures and videos so that this is still an active part of her life.
* When you bring the new baby home, make your older child feel that they has a role to play in caring for the baby. Tell her they can hold the baby and it's okay if they want to feed them with their bottle or pacifier as long as they ask first. Praise her when they is gentle and loving toward the new family member!
* Support your older child by asking them what they want to do and listening. If you have a minute, spend time with each of the kids individually so that everyone knows how much you care for them.