Guest Author - Vanessa Pruitt
Having a new baby in the family is a big life change for older siblings. Your child may be excited or worried about having a baby brother or sister, and probably doesn't know what to expect. If he or she has previously been an only child, the transition can be even more difficult. However, there are many things you can do to help your child adjust to the new baby.
Prepare your child in advance
An older sibling's adjustment to a new baby begins during the pregnancy. You should use this time to help educate your child about what's going on and prepare them for the baby's arrival. Sit down with your child and discuss the baby and the pregnancy, as well as what will happen when the baby arrives.
As you grow closer to the end of your pregnancy, be sure to have discussions with your child about the specifics of what will happen. This will ease your child's anxieties when the actual events occur. For instance, if you plan to go the the hospital, you can talk to your child about what will happen when labor starts, where mommy and daddy will go, who will care for them while you are away, and what will happen when the baby comes home.
How your child may feel
When the baby arrives, it's important to understand your child's perspective and how they may be feeling. They notice that mom and dad spend a lot of time with the baby and that the baby gets a lot of attention. Visitors also arrive and give lots of attention to the new baby.
Your child may be feeling a little jealous or “left out”. If someone else is caring for them, they may feel anxious and wonder when things will return to normal. Depending on their personality, these feelings can lead your child to act out or become more reserved. If this happens, it's beneficial to address your child's feelings rather than punishing them.
Meeting the new baby
When your child meets the new baby for the first time, introduce them and let your child hold, hug, or kiss the baby if they want. Explain to your child that the baby will be living with you from now on. Your child may be shy and reserved or have lots of questions and comments; You should follow their lead.
Ideas for parents
It may be that your child wants to spend time with only you; Try to meet your older child's needs as much as possible when baby is sleeping or while someone holds the baby, even if it's just for 5 minutes at a time. While it's true that you need your rest, you should be able to squeeze in some time reading books, talking about your child's day, or just cuddling.
Explain to your child that the baby has lots of needs and that things will start to return to normal soon. Ask them to be your big helper and get baby supplies for you such as diapers, wipes, etc.
Ideas for caregivers
Dad, Grandma, or someone else will probably be your older child's primary caregiver for awhile after the birth of your baby. They can help your child enjoy this time by taking them out for a special activity or helping them make something for mom and the baby. Ask your child about their favorite activities and let them make a list of things to do with their caregiver after the baby is born.
Ideas for visitors
Visitors often arrive baring gifts and spend their time ogling over the new baby, but this can be hurtful to an older sibling and make them feel left out; They want visitor's too! One thing that you can do is suggest to visitors that if they bring a gift for the baby, they also consider bringing a gift for your older child or children as well.
Also, remind your visitors about your older child's presence and make sure that they say hello. This can help your child from feeling as if everybody is ignoring them and only there to see the new little one.