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If there is one thing we have done a few times around here, it is: introduce a new child into the family. This is always an exciting time over here these days, but I remember the days when I went from one to two children, and then two to three children. When my oldest was three I had three children who were all dependent on me. Can you relate? Is this where you are?
You love your baby to death, but the time is fast approaching when they won’t be your baby anymore. But, you probably feel the pull on your heartstrings already – how can you love them both well? And, how can you encourage your firstborn to love the new baby? How can you help their relationship get off on the right foot?
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Actually, there are several things you can do right now to help the transition from only or older child be a time that is free from stress and filled with joy.
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I often have people say they can’t imagine how I manage with eight children. I wrote some about my general response here, but in reflecting back on my life as a mom, there was never anything that was more of a challenge than having three little kids who were all dependent on me at the same time. These days I have extra hands, extra eyes, extra ears, and people to talk to since my older kids are old enough to have adult conversation. Not the same as friends, I know, but I do not feel that sense of isolation anymore. I also don’t have to worry about a new baby coming in for these reasons.
For me, the thought of introducing a new sibling to younger children was always worse than it ever was in reality. There were a few things I did to prepare the older ones, which perhaps is what made the difference in it being smooth for both me and my young children.
Here are 12 things you can do to prepare your child for a new baby.
Talk about the baby coming all the time
Have your young children talk to your belly or in the case of adoption, have your young children color a picture to their new sibling or write them a letter.
Read about it
Check out books about babies and becoming an older brother or sister from the library and read them often. These books are a few of our favorites.
Establish a few simple things that are important to you with your young children
For me this was often that “babies mean shhhhhhh.” I repeated this phrase over and over, and I had the children repeat it back to me, too. I think in each case the one who learned this said this statement first upon meeting their new sibling. It is quite cute.
Have your young children help you get things ready for the baby
They can help prepare the clothes and necessities like diapers, have them put animals in the baby’s bed, and even make a picture for the baby to put in the baby’s bed, too.
Create a “feeding basket”
Get a simple basket or container of some kind and fill it with new toys. These don’t have to be anything fancy, but in a similar way to blanket training, these need to be little trinkets that are new to your young child or children.
Then, this is the basket that the child or children get to have every time you feed the baby – and only then. There is nothing more difficult than trying to feed a newborn with older kids crawling around in your lap. They also don’t notice the need to feel jealous since they are so intrigued by the new “feeding basket” full of toys. Even for older kids a few new special things can be helpful.
Make a big deal of it
Once the baby arrives, of course you want to make it a big deal that they are now an older sibling, but don’t go overboard. Even a very young child can decide to accept this new one on their own terms. Don’t push the relationship. Let your older child or children set the pace for exploring the new baby.
Your older child can help bring you things for the baby, but again this needs to be on their schedule. Ask if they want to get you a diaper or whatever, but allow them to say “no.”
Make them an older kid
Create new “grown up” things for your older child to do that make a big deal about being the big kid. Helping you with things that are not related to the baby in any way is a great place to start.
Have them talk about it
Encourage your older child to talk about what they think and feel about the baby if they are verbal, if they are not, have your baby “talk” to them about how much they love them.
Make special time
Make time to do special things with your older child on their own. It doesn’t have to be much time, just a few intentional moments here and there throughout your day.
Keep things the same
See to it that if at all possible, the baby’s schedule doesn’t interfere with your older child’s routine. Don’t make your older child wait for lunch because the baby needs to eat at that time. Do everything you can to work the baby’s schedule around your older child’s schedule.
Give them a picture
Take a picture of your older child or children with the baby and frame it to put in your older child’s room. This will give your older child or children an opportunity to not have to interact only with your actual baby. Oftentimes, little ones will interact with the picture in the same way and feel less threatened by them.
Being proactive before a new sibling arrives creates the best opportunity for it to be a positive experience for everyone right away. Talk, talk, talk about what will happen, and when the baby arrives don’t rush the sibling relationship. More times than not, any adjustment time will be minimal.
Be sure to check out my post on what to pack in your hospital bag!