Newborn babies are often lavished with so much love and attention that it is somewhat of a shock when another baby comes along and they are now forced to share that love and attention. However, there are many effective ways to get older children ready for the birth of a younger sibling. Here are some of those ideas:
Make them feel included. A lot of parents who have experience in such matters suggest that you give the sibling a sense of ownership for that baby who is on the way by referring to it as, “your little sister,” or “your little brother.” If they are old enough to understand, you should explain to them how important their help with the sibling will be. Being specific by saying things like, “You will help mommy get your little brother’s diapers”.
Let them help with preparation efforts. Another nugget of advice is to let the sibling help with preparations for the baby, such as getting the nursery ready. Telling them the identity of things is also helpful. Try giving them vocabulary lessons in a natural way, rather than drilling them with a lot of new lingo. For example, you can say, “Let’s fold your baby brother’s onesies, “Let’s wash your little brother’s t-shirts.” When that sibling hears the names of things often enough, they will assimilate that vocabulary.
Help them to visualize the new baby. One mother suggested that you take a picture of the pregnant belly and cut out the belly part so that you can replace it with a picture of a baby. The picture can help your child figure out what it is that is in your tummy before the baby arrives.
Help them adjust to changes. Don’t overlook the fact that that existing child will have to make adjustments. These adjustments should not be thrust upon them all of the sudden. Instead let them visit a nursery or another person’s home where there is a small baby. A nice talk during that visit may help some ideas to cement in the sibling’s head.
Take classes. Another thing that many suggests as a must-do is taking sibling preparation classes; which are offered at many hospitals. They have a wonderful curriculum to help your existing child get ready for a new baby at the same time that others are doing the same.
Make them feel special too. The existing child should still feel that they are special. Hugs and assurances can go a long way toward making them feel secure. Once the baby arrives, these gestures will be even more important, because they need reassurance that they are still important and loved.
Practice makes perfect. Since babies are so small and vulnerable, the existing child needs practice with touching and handling something so frail. One suggestion to help you achieve this is to let them practice touching a soft cheek, touching and handling a soft baby doll, touching and handling a stuffed bear or other plushy, or holding something else that needs a gentle touch. Be sure to show them how to hold a head, if you are using anything that resembles a baby. Siblings should be given an opportunity to know what their new brother or sister can’t do, as well as what they can do. This can be achieved by giving them a nice sweet talk. During that talk, you should tell them that their little brother or sister will not be able to eat the same way, won’t be able to go to potty, etc.
Present them with a gift. One final idea that had merit is letting the existing sibling choose a gift or toy for the upcoming sibling. When they first see that sibling, or when that newborn comes home; you should let them gently bestow that gift. A soft item like a small stuffed animal might be just the perfect item. You can let them lay it next to the baby or place it in the crib before you put the baby down for a nap. Be sure to talk them through this.
Ultimately, parents can cut down on a lot of confusion, jealousy and sibling rivalry by helping existing children grasp what is to come and the new role they will play in loving and helping with the care of the newest addition to the family.