A new addition to your family —a baby — marks a time of many changes both big and small. As the parent, you can expect that many adjustments need to be made — and the same applies for your kids, if you already have them.
This period of adjustment can be stressful not just for you, but for your older kids too. The stress can, in turn, affect how they will welcome their baby sibling.
Avoid any negativity and prepare your older kids for your new baby’s arrival by bearing in mind the following tips from parents who’ve been in the same situation:
1. Share your excitement about the baby. Lique Castro-Dimayuga, freelance graphic artist and entrepreneur, and mom to Kiel, 3, and Hailey, 1, encourages parents to “trust the natural order of things.”
“Of course, the first thing you should do to prepare the older sibling is to tell him about the baby,” she shares, “and then just let everything fall into place.”
“I'm sure your child will be excited to have a new playmate around, and he will be excited to take care of his baby sibling by helping Mommy and Daddy, as it makes them feel so grown up.”
Kyla Boyse, R.N. also suggests that you tell your older child about your excitement at his own birth. “Tell them about their birth and what they were like as a baby,” she writes on the University of Michigan Health System website. “Tell them how excited you were when they were born, and how everyone wanted to see them and hold them.”
2. Involve them in your pregnancy. Ira Coates Pahanel, freelancer and mom to Amarantha, 8, Nicholai, 6, and Francheska, 1.5, advises parents to give their older kids special “roles” in the pregnancy.
She shares, “When I got pregnant with Nicholai, I always asked Amar to sing lullabies to my tummy. When Nicholai came, Amar was ecstatic to sing those lullabies to him. When I became pregnant with Cheska, Nicholai sang to her.”
“Both of them also helped me around the house — they prepared the pillows and sheets. When Cheska was born, she was always guarded by her kuya.”
Mai Toralba-Danganan, mompreneur and mom to Asher, 7, and Ashley, 3, also included Asher in their preparations for Ashley’s arrival by letting him feel and listen to her belly and talking to the unborn baby, reading the storybook titled I Am a Big Brother with him, and asking him to include the baby in his prayers.
Getting your child involved helps him or her feel that the new baby is “ours,” not just Mom and Dad’s.
3. Let them feel that you (and your spouse) value them. Ira says she made sure that each of her older children felt more valued, and encourages parents to do the same.
Tyna Quimpo, a quality assurance analyst and mom to Alyssa, 12, and Andre, 4, agrees with Ira. “Reassure your older child of your love because there might be people around her who will taunt her and tell her that she is no longer loved just because the new baby is here,” Tyna says.
“Talk to your older child and set the expectation that things may change once the baby is out,” she continues. “The baby may need more attention from Mama, not because Mama loves the baby more, but because there are things that the baby cannot do on his own yet.”
Tyna adds that parents should tell their kids that if Mommy is not available to help them out with something, they should trust that Daddy will be there for them.
4. Welcome the baby together. Clarice Anne Talavera-Aviñante, certified positive discipline parent educator, believes that doing this one seemingly simple thing made a huge difference in her older child’s acceptance of her baby brother:
“At the hospital room after I gave birth, we made sure our daughter Jia and her newborn brother Joya’s first meeting was a happy occasion. When Jia arrived, it was just her dad and I in the room, and we took that opportunity to bond with her and tell her that the baby isn’t in my tummy anymore. Then we asked for the baby to be brought inside the room.” By doing so, the Aviñante couple was able to make Jia feel as if they — Clarice, her husband Bernard, and Jia — were welcoming Joya together, as a family.
They were also able to avoid Jia making the connection between Clarice’s long absence and Joya’s “arrival.”
Pehpot Pineda, blogger and mommy of four, did a similar thing with her second, third and fourth babies.
“When it was time to go home, I always made sure that I was not the one carrying the baby as we arrived,” she explains. “I asked my husband or my mother to carry the baby, and made sure that I always entered the house first.”
“This way, the kids didn’t have the impression that my absence was due to the arrival of the new baby.”
5. Invest in Big Brother/Big Sister stuff. As Mai mentioned earlier, reading books about being an older sibling can really help in preparing your child for a younger sibling’s arrival.
There are also other things you can do, which may require you to spend a bit of money — but believe us, it will be totally worth it!
Clarice shares a few things she and her husband did with us, which she also wrote about on her blog, TickledMomClarice.com:
“We bought and read books about being a big sister. There was a time [Jia] was glued to a Sesame Street video on having a new baby in the family.”
“I even showed her a YouTube video of a breastfeeding mom (one with an older daughter hovering beside the baby) to prepare her for my breastfeeding Joya.”
Clarice also recalls how she and her husband gave Jia a “Big Sister shirt” and a “Big Sister certificate” after she met Joya for the first time. Giving her balloons as a “gift” because she was already a big sister also helped prepare Jia for meeting Joya.
Whatever you choose to do to help prepare your older child for the arrival of a new sibling, remember that, besides the aforementioned tips, communication is key.
It’s also important to emphasize that every child is a blessing, no matter who “came first.” As pediatric nurse and pediatric family education author Kyla Boyse says:
“Having a new baby in the family may be one of the tougher things your older child has to deal with. However, it may eventually be one of the greatest gifts you can give them.”
Reference: University of Michigan Healthy System http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/newbaby.htm