Preparing Siblings For New Baby
One of the concerns many parents have bout the impending birth of their second or subsequent child is how will the older sibling or siblings handle the new arrival. This is definitely one of those times where deliberate and consistent preparation really pays off.
Conventional wisdom recommends avoiding telling a child you’re pregnant until you’re showing. Children have no sense of time and if you reveal the happy news too early you’re in for 9 long, relentless months of “Mummy when’s the baby coming?”
Sometimes you need to tell them a little earlier especially if sitting on your stomach is a favourite pastime. Edie was 2 when we fell pregnant with her sister. We were fortunate that she was a very early talker so communicating with her was easy. We told her there was a baby in Mummy’s tummy when I was about 14 weeks. I just couldn’t have her jumping on me anymore!
We were also deliberate in the way we talked about the baby. We always talked about her as “our baby” and “Edie’s, Mummy’s and Daddy’s baby.” We wanted to promote the idea that the baby was joining us as a family and make her feel included in the process.
We never packaged the idea of the baby as being “Edie’s baby“. I don’t think a sibling is much of a gift for a child and depending on how old they are, they can be bitterly disappointed when the promised gift turns out to be pretty uninspiring and uninteresting., at least for the first few months.
Nor did we talk about how Edie could “help” mummy look after the baby. A lot of parents believe the older child will enjoy this and feel its’ a privilege but I think it puts too much pressure on them. It creates the expectation that they should help when it’s not really their job. And resentment if they’re not exactly enamored with the new arrival.
We strongly believed that looking after her sister was our job not hers. Her job was only to be a kind and loving big sister. Of course, when she helped, by handing me a nappy, I thanked her and told her what a great helper she was.
All of this was supported by reading lots of books all the time. One terrific book is “There’s a House Inside my Mummy“. This talk about where the baby grows, how it gets its food etc.
Also “Daddy’s Having a Horse” was lot of fun and talked about how the baby may not come out as you’d liked (i.e. Lachlan in the story was convinced he was getting a horse when Mummy came home from hospital) but how what does come home can be a really pleasant surprise. Most good bookshops will have these and other books that deal with this issue.
3 Tips on Introducing New Baby to an older sibling:
- I took Edie shopping for a gift to welcome the baby. She knew that the baby would be bringing her something when she arrived. I thought it was important for Edie to have input into choosing a gift for the baby. This was just one more way we included her.
- When Edie first came to visit me in hospital, I made sure I was at the elevator to greet her. We walked to meet the baby together as opposed to her coming to me in my room. Obviously the kind of birth you have will determine whether you can do this.
- It was very important that I was not holding the baby when Edie first met her. I believe that having someone else hold the baby other than Mum is crucial. It shows the sibling they are still an important member of the family and that their mum hasn’t been hijacked by a red, squishy creature from outer space!