A new baby means newer challenges, and these challenges might not be the same as the last time when you had your first baby. Top of the challenges list must be, how to prepare your child for the new face in the family. Indeed, it’s a hard task but not impossible. I had the same question on my mind when I was expecting my baby girl. I wanted them to develop a strong sibling bond over time, so I decided to do some research, and here’s what I found:
Start by having a one-to-one conversation with your school-going child, and tell them about the new sibling that they are going to have. Tell them about all the exciting things that they will be able to do with their sibling. When shopping for your new one, take your older child with you, and take their suggestions on how to build the nursery. After the birth makes sure that you take your child to the hospital to meet his new sibling. Giving your older child a gift from the little one can help the two create a strong sibling bond. In no case, make your older child feel left out, like when you buy new baby clothes or take pictures and videos of the little one, include your older one in every activity. Older children are rather sensitive and might break rules or react badly to get more attention. During those regressive episodes, instead of punishing your child for acting out, treat them with affection and love. Prepping your child beforehand can help make this process of family expansion easier for everyone.
Ways to prepare your child for a sibling
You are probably expecting a new baby and wondering how to prepare your older child for a new addition to the family. Children are very sensitive towards sharing their loved ones and seeing a new baby taking your attention can disturb them much, as they are not used to your divided attention and love. Which is why they might react unlovingly or show signs of jealousy towards the new baby at times.
For 1-2 years toddlers
If your first child is 1-2 years old then talking to them would not be an option, because they will not be able to understand at this point. In that case, show them the pictures of siblings and make them aware of the words like “sister “, “brother “, and “new baby “. Give your older child some alone time with yourself and relatives they are close to, this will reassure them that they are still loved.
For 2-4 years preschoolers
For children with age around 2-4, things can become a little trickier because of their growing attachment with you. Whenever they question about your growing belly, reply to them honestly.
Tell them about their new sibling who’s on its way, get their help in setting up a new nursery and talk to them a lot about the new baby. Explain to them how the new baby will react for the first few months and will only be able to play once they grow up.
For school-going children
School going children need much less work than the younger ones. You can talk to your baby about both the good and bad sides of having the new baby.
Get their help with new baby shopping and setting up the room, so that they feel excited about having a new baby. Tell your child what they need to do to help their sibling, and praise her for her love and care.
Make sure that you do not let your little one distract you from the needs of your older ones.
How to deal with your child’s jealousy with the newborn?
How your older child deals with the newborn depend upon what you teach them because your older child probably doesn’t know how fragile the newborn baby could be. These suggestions can help you teach your children how to react and play with their new sibling:
- Teach your child how to play and interact with the new baby, just like you teach them other things. Give them examples, guide them, and encourage their efforts.
- Stay close to your babies and make sure that the older one does not get rough. To avoid any unwanted situation distract the older one with something else.
- Teach them how to touch softly and in a positive way. Do not let them be alone, as they might try something they shouldn’t.
- Praise your older baby for their love and positive affection towards the little one.
- Let your child know that you know it is hard for them to deal with this change. Show the support, and tell them how things will be all right soon.
- By teaching your older child how to play and distract the baby when they are crying can help lessen the jealousy.
- The most important thing is never to compare your babies in terms of their habits or progress because they can understand the criticism.
How to deal with my older child’s reaction to breastfeeding?
It is best to nurse your newborn in private. You can make your older baby play in the other room while you nurse, this will avoid the older baby to grow confused.
If need be, answer your child’s questions regarding breastfeeding and tell them how you did it for them as well. You can entertain your older child while nursing by playing with them or giving them special toys to divert their attention.
Pros and Cons of spacing between pregnancies
There is no scientifically best age difference among siblings to consider. Your lifestyle and responsibilities can help you best in deciding what works for you.
Pros and Cons of Small gaps
- It can help you get done with the hardest jobs like pregnancy and early years all together
- Children will keep each other company and will build more creativity.
- Complications in the labor might increase
- Having to fulfill the needs of the older toddler can be pretty difficult during the second pregnancy
Pros and Cons of Medium gap
- Your body will be ready to tolerate the second pregnancy
- Your older baby’s equipment and clothes can be reused for the new baby
- Chances of giving birth to low birth weight baby are greatly reduced
- You might have problems with your babies get along in the beginning
Pros and Cons of a longer gap
- You will have sufficient experience in raising a newborn
- The risk of developing jealousy will be much less for the older sibling
- You will have to teach your older child about interacting with the new baby, to avoid any mishaps
- 5 years and above pregnancy gaps can create problems in pregnancy and births.
How to react to your older child’s changing behaviors?
Accepting a new sibling can be challenging for the older one, as they are not used to divided attention. They can start misbehaving, crying more often, or agitate you to get your attention. Such situations can make you angry and worried at the same time, but the most important thing would be to understand why your child is acting irregularly?
You will be inviting more misbehaviors if you start reacting to each one of their tantrums. You can tell if your child is acting out for more attention or not so, letting their plans fail will encourage them to look for better ways to seek attention. Talking to them about how they feel about the new baby can help them cope with the jealousy.
Some children start showing stress response by having toilet accidents etc. These are quite normal and should be addressed rather than punished. Show them support, love, and guidance in those regressive times instead of shouting or punishing them.
Books that can help your first child prepare for their sibling roles
The best time to prepare your child for the new sibling is storytime. Preparing your first child for a newcomer is top of the list task for expecting parents.
The preparations need to be done ahead of time, that’s why encourage, teach, and excite your child for the second born. You can mentally prepare them for their transitioning role of a big brother or sister by reading them sibling-oriented stories.
When my baby was due in 4 weeks I started talking to my firstborn, about the new baby. I read him several stories about new babies and siblings and talked to him about having his own. Among my collection of stories my favorite ones are:
- The New Baby: Mercer Mayer
- You’re a Brother, Little Bunny: Maribeth Boelts
- Becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister: Darlene Stango
- The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby: Stan Berenstain and Jan Berenstain
- What a Big Brother Does Best: Personalized Story Book
- You Were the First: Patricia MacLachlan
I hope one of these books help you prepare your toddler for a new baby to come!