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Preparing Your Older Child For A New Sibling

Posted Nov 05 2012 8:17am

A pregnancy always turns the whole family's world upside down, and all moms are excited and a little scared no matter if they are expecting their first or tenth baby. Nobody knows more about that unique combination of joy and fear than a child who is about to surrender his status as the baby of the family and share his parents with some... crying and pooping machine?

Most kids naturally come to love their new baby sibling very quickly. You can help your child feel safe and secure, so they can welcome their brother or sister with open arms and realistic expectations. How?

Help Your Child Bond With The New Baby

Don't wait until your new baby is born to create bonding opportunities for your older child. You can start early on in pregnancy, by sharing information about pregnancy signs and showing pictures of what the tiny fetus looks like at the moment. Gently ease your child into the idea of a baby by describing what he or she was like as a tiny one. Show pictures, and visit friends or relatives with young babies as often as you can.

Many parents to-be get an older kid excited about a new sibling by saying they will have a new playmate. Personally, I think that simply sets the child up with a huge disappointment when the baby does get there. Seeing real-life babies gives a much more realistic picture of what having a sibling may be like in the first few months. In addition, you can read books about pregnancy, childbirth, and siblings (including sibling rivalry) together.

Once your child has a good idea of what to expect from a baby, you can actively include him or her in your pregnancy in many ways. Some kids love seeing their new sibling on the ultrasound monitor, for instance (mine did!). Others love helping you shop for tiny baby clothes and other gear, or making a list of baby names they like. The more involved your child feels, the less likely he'll be to get jealous.

Make Your Child Feel Important

There is no doubt that having a newborn is hard work. Many parents prepare for the “oncoming storm” by arranging more childcare for older kids who aren't yet in school. Many of my friends told me to get my older daughter used to spending more time with her dad while I was still pregnant, so she would not feel too bad once her new brother was born. That is common practice, along with enrolling a brand new big sibling in daycare or preschool, or having grandparents play a more active role in the older kid's life.

There is a different approach. Newborns naturally draw all the attention to them — they are, after all, so cute, so helpless, and so new. But all they really need is love, warmth, and food. A newborn can't tell if you are completely obsessed with him, or if he is simply tagging along with the rest of the family, as long as his needs are met.

That is why we, in our family, “neglected” our second baby during his first six months or so. My son never was the center of attention during his newborn period. Instead, it was barely even possible to detect his presence as we read books together, played outside, or went shopping as a family. He tagged along, riding snugly in our faithful baby carrier — content to be breastfed and have mom close, and to fall asleep whenever he needed a nap.

Babies can't tell the difference between being the center of attention and just tagging along. Toddlers and preschoolers most certainly can. Therefore, invest time in your older child and show him that you are interested in his life. Play games, and ask him to help with the baby and around the house. He'll feel important and loved, and he'll love you and his new sibling for it.

Olivia Maloy is a journalist and mother of two. She writes about how to get pregnant , expecting, and parenting at Trying To Conceive.

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