Preparing kids for a new sibling

Whether it’s baby #2 or baby #6, chances are you’re going to have a jealous older sibling on your hands.

How your child reacts to going from flying solo to having to share Mum and Dad depends largely on their age and their temperament type. Those reactions range from withdrawal and temper tantrums through to attention seeking and asking you to stop spending so much time feeding the baby.

It might sound terrible, and it might sound like something your little angel will never do. They may even be excited about a new arrival. But you won’t really know how things will go until you are home with the new baby.

Preparing in advance is a good idea. Preschoolers may not grasp concepts of time, so it might not mean much if you say that the baby will arrive in a few months. It may be more useful to explain that the baby will arrive in a particular season, such as winter or when it’s cold outside.

You can go through your child’s baby pictures with them to remind them how tiny a baby is, or visit friends with an infant to try to orientate them. Bring them along to a scan appointment so that they can see baby and hear the heartbeat. If you’re birthing at hospital, let them see your packed bag and explain to them how long you’ll be gone for.

Even with all that, though, it’s important to remember that the oldest sibling will go through an adjustment period when a new sibling comes along. Here are a few ways to help them through:

1)    Involve them
A great way to involve your firstborn is to give them special jobs to do. They can “help” you bathe the baby, fetch nappies or new clothes. Let them hold the baby (with the aid of pillows and your close supervision).

2)    Ask their advice
Ask your older child their opinion on what to dress the baby in, to pick a story to read to the baby or a game to play with the baby. Most preschoolers have a natural flair for entertainment – singing, dancing, or making faces – and a baby is an appreciative audience.

3)    Read stories together about your firstborn’s new role
Reading stories about the trials and joys of having a new sibling can help your preschooler adjust to their new situation. Books that feature children who resent the new baby in their lives can help him understand that those feelings are natural. Stories that show children enjoying and taking pride in their little siblings present positive role models for your child. Your local library will have some books on offer.

4)    Acknowledge their feelings
It’s normal for your preschooler to have a range of feelings about this new change in their family. Rather than telling them off if they have a negative reaction to baby, acknowledge their feelings: “It seems like you’re feeling sad right now. Do you want to tell me about it?”

5)    Spend a little time alone together
Spend some time each day with just your older child, even if it’s only a few minutes of drawing or building with blocks. This time makes them feel special and reminds them that you’re still their parent and you still love them.

More on baby & toddler: www.familytimes.co.nz/holiday-sleep-tips-wee-travellers.