A new baby in the house is a big life change for every member of the household, including the older children. It’s an adjustment for us parents, but even more so for the older sibling(s). There is suddenly another child in the house, one that needs your attention, meaning less time for them. It’s understandable that there will be feelings of anxiety, displacement and uncertainty. As parents, we can help prepare older siblings for the new change ahead, and the earlier the better.
I’ve put together some tips of what we’ve done to help prepare our son for his baby sister’s arrival.
1. Books! Reading is a great way to connect to our kids 1 on 1, but also a great opportunity for learning. We purchased some books about being a big brother, all telling different stories; one talks about the changes of a new baby arriving like crying, nappy changes and mum and dad not always being available. Another is about how being a big brother is very important and how he will have a new friend. We’ve been reading these books since 2nd trimester, but it's never too late to start! Check out your local bookstore for books like this.
2. Talk about baby and Mummy being pregnant. Point to Mummy’s belly and talk about the baby being in there, how the baby will arrive one day and they will be able to see them. Talk about how Mum needs to be careful the bigger she gets and may need help around the house - a great opportunity to teach them independence too. I’ve been asking my son to help me with my shoes. As a result, I often get shoes that do not match my outfit at all - but that’s ok, he takes it seriously and wants to help. Having some responsibility that involves caring for someone else gives them a sense of independence and empowerment.
3. Setup the cot or bassinet and involve them in this process. We set the bassinet in our bedroom and offered our son to get involved, which he wasn’t keen. But, when we put a doll in there he noticed it more and ‘tucked in’ the doll that night. It was the cutest thing. Having this setup helps them get used to seeing baby gear around.
4. Take them baby clothes shopping! Yup, that’s right, take them shopping with you and let them help choose items. You might choose not to buy what they pick out, but being part of this process can be heaps of fun for them. I took Archer with me one time and he loved it. I showed him some racks and I told him that I needed help picking out clothes for his baby sister. He got so excited and picked out the cutest items!
5. Chat to them about the changes ahead. Do this regularly and in casual conversation. This one is different to point number 2 because it's about recognising the changes. Start doing this one when you can see they understand that a baby is coming, you don’t want to overwhelm them with too much information. Some examples of what you can talk about;
- The changes that will occur during birth; how they might go stay with someone while Mummy is in hospital, and how they won’t see Mummy for a few days
- Bath time will be shared with their baby sibling and they will get to have someone to play with
- Explain how sometimes you won’t always be available to play with, and that you will need to take care of the new baby. Do this in a way that explains to them that you still love them and have time for them, but you will be shared between them.
- Be excited when talking about the changes, mention how they will soon have someone to play with.
Every child is different, you know your child best. Just remember that preparing them in advance will help them process the change. Use tools and learning methods you know they love to help them with the adjustment.
| Written by Natalie Robinson
Natalie lives in Auckland with her husband Chris, son Archer and their two dogs. Plus can’t forget baby girl whose on the way! As a mental and disability advocate, Natalie loves to share what Mum life is really like, and is an open book on her account @mrsrobinsonnz over on Instagram.