Your family is about to expand and welcome a new little being into your home. But before that exciting day arrives, there’s another person who needs some extra love and attention: your older child!
Big changes are coming, and your older child might feel left out or intimidated by these upcoming changes. You want to make sure they’re as ready as possible to become an elder sibling, so they don’t feel jealous or ignored when the new baby arrives.
In this article, we'll explain how you can help prepare your older children for their new role in life.
Educating Older Siblings on the Expectations of a New Baby
Having a new baby in the family is an exciting adventure, but also one that can cause a lot of confusion and apprehension for your older children. To help prepare them for the arrival of their new sibling, it's essential to educate them on the expectations of this transition.
Let them know that they may need to make some adjustments to their routines due to the arrival of a new baby. Remind them of the importance of treating their younger sibling with kindness and responsibility. This could include things such as speaking in soft voices when they are in the same room as the baby or helping out with tasks such as changing diapers or feeding time.
You may also want to explain some of the implications of having a newborn. This could include not being able to go out on errands like you usually would, or having to keep noise levels down so as not to disturb the baby’s sleep.
How to Talk to Older Siblings About the Pregnancy
Older siblings may feel particularly anxious about how the new arrival will affect their lives, as well as excited about becoming a big brother or sister. So how to talk to them about this exciting life change?
The first thing to note is that it’s important to find an appropriate time and place to have a conversation. Talking in a relaxed atmosphere in the house can be best, as it will make your older child feel more secure and less judged.
When it comes to what you need to say, there’s no perfect answer. It depends on your child’s age and maturity. Though it's important to explain that they will gain a companion and may have some extra responsibilities, but will still receive all of your attention, support, love and care, of course! You can also encourage them to become involved by letting them help prepare the baby’s room or pick out new clothes for the newborn. By making them part of this exciting moment, your older child will be more likely to welcome their sibling with enthusiasm.
Planning for Visits and Playdates
Older siblings might find it hard to see their parents giving their attention and affection to a new baby. So, it's always important to spend time and bond with your older children.
One great way to help them adjust and bond with the new baby is by visiting and having playdates with family and friends who also have young babies. It can help them get used to the noise, movement, and energy that comes with a new baby in the house.
You can plan for these visits in advance by:
Setting up a calendar for visits with family and friends
Asking your friends ahead of time for advice about their own experiences
Brainstorming fun activities for the play dates that involve both the older child and the baby
Having playdates before a new sibling joins the family can help ease into acceptance of the little one when they arrive. Plus, it's always great practice to be able to hold, interact with, and entertain a baby!
Introducing the New Baby Using Books & Storytelling
One great way to prepare your older child for a new baby is through books and storytelling. Introducing a new little person to the family can be daunting if you're not sure what to expect, but stories can help bridge the gap in understanding.
A book like I’m a Big Sister/I'm a Big Brother by Caroline Jayne Church is an informative way of showing your older child that a new baby will be joining the family and what they can do to make their sibling feel welcome. Reassure them that even though there will be changes in the house, it's still a safe and happy place for everyone, most especially for them.
Books provide an opportunity for children to talk about their own experiences as well as provide insight into how their lives are going to change with a new addition in the family. You can also make up your own stories about the new baby, with pictures or drawings if your child is old enough to understand them.
The key here is finding stories and books that fit your child's interest level, which you can use as a fun and interactive way of introducing them to what's about to come, but ultimately helping them be excited for their newest family member!
Learning About Baby Care & Safety
Now that you have the basics down, let's talk about baby care and safety. There are some really important things for them to understand before their new sibling arrives.
Understand Safety Hazards
Safety first! There are some obvious hazards, like sharp corners, plugs and heaters, but also keep an eye out for:
Choking - Anything small enough to fit inside a toilet roll tube is a choking hazard. Keep toys that size away from young children.
Water - Make sure bath time is a safe space, with plenty of non-slip mats and no distractions that could lead to trouble.
Cords & Cables - Keep objects with long cords in high places, where they're out of reach. Don't let toddlers play with unused power cords and cables either!
Learn Basic Hygiene Habits
Babies go through diaper changes pretty often, but there are other hygiene habits older children should learn about too. Topping the list is frequent hand washing for everyone in the family, as well as cleaning pacifiers, bottles and toys on a regular basis so that all germs stay at bay.
It might seem like a lot to learn at first but by taking the time to understand baby safety and hygiene basics before their new sibling arrives, you’ll be better equipped to provide support when they need you most!
The transition to having a new baby in the family can be a major adjustment, but by helping to foster a warm, welcoming environment, you can help make it a positive experience for your older child. Through being patient and providing comfort and kindness, you can ensure that their relationship with their younger sibling will remain strong no matter what!