Preparing your current child or children for a new sibling often depends upon the age and temperament of the child or children. Certainly, it is a good idea to prepare your son or daughter for the advent of another family member. Youngsters are often very excited about the prospect of having someone to play with, and are unworried about the finer points of childbirth – such as where do babies come from.
Be as upbeat, positive and excited about the new baby as you can possibly be, in a restrained sort of way. But don’t be too surprised if you don’t get a positive reaction when the idea is first brought up. Some children are quite excited about the prospect of a younger sibling, but many are not as thrilled as you might think. A new baby means having to share mom and dad, perhaps having to share a room. Play up having someone to play with as much as possible and gloss over some of the practical aspects, such as having to share a room or mom and dad having even less time for the “old baby” than usual. Peter Pan was a story about having to share – make no mistake about that.[amazon_link asins='B01BOGG5KM,B077RVJQZM,B074P49GC8' template='ProductCarousel' store='us-1' marketplace='US' link_id='d5be2747-d950-11e8-ac8d-77af9d673a48']
Read Aloud Stories About New Babies
Develop a collection of stories about becoming a big brother or a big sister. The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby is an excellent example of a good book about introducing a new child into a family. In the end, Brother Bear helps make a cradle for Sister Bear. This is only one example of many good books about being a big brother or big sister. For older children, My Rotten Red-Haired Older Brother is a great book about siblings and sibling rivalry – and about the protective role of older siblings.
How Much Biology Does Your Child Need?
Unless your current child is old enough to comprehend the broader points of biology, he or she isn’t likely to need to know the mechanics of how the baby got started or what happens as a baby grows inside the mother. For example, one precocious little girl asked her mama about an aunt who was expecting a baby. Her parents purchased a copy of “Where Did I Come From?” by Peter Mayle. The cover of the book shows a naked baby climbing through the first O in book.
The little girl’s mama read the book aloud, and thought she had explained the pictures about babies and where they come from pretty thoroughly. At the end of the book, she then asked the child, “So where do babies come from?”
The little girl looked thoughtfully at the cover illustration. “Out of the O,” she said.
The point here is that we can explain many things to children, but some things are truly beyond their comprehension. Maturity is a factor in understanding.
Helping Build Anticipation
You can tell your preschool or school age child that mommy is growing a baby inside of her. It will explain why Mom is getting more rotund every day. Take your child shopping for things for the new baby – but don’t forget to buy a tidbit or two for the “old baby” to help with that feeling of being pushed out.
When you begin to feel your baby kick, make listening to the baby or feeling the baby move a family affair, shared with dad and with siblings. A pregnancy is a special time for everyone.
Do Other Things with Your Older Child
Even though you have a new baby on the way, your current child still has needs and wants. Take time to read books, watch television or play games with your older child or children. Attend his or her school presentations, and try very hard not to miss important things like T-ball or Scouts.
Allow Dad to have some extra time with older siblings. This is a good time to bond over nature walks or building things in the garage. Whether your child is a daughter or a son, sharing time with dad helps give a balanced view of life. Don’t short girls on learning how to make things with Legos or how to clean a battery or change a tire; and remember to show boys that dads can cook, mend and clean just as well as moms. If you or your spouse don’t know how to do some of these things, this is a good time for everyone to get in some learning. Gender equality means everyone knowing how to shovel the snow off the walk or how to wash dishes. It also means letting Dad have a share of the parenting.
Let Your Child Help
As Mom becomes more ungainly, let your child do things like bring a drink of water. Encourage acts of responsibility, such as picking up his or her own toys or pouring a scoop of kibble in a pets food dish. Chores are a good way for children to prepare for having a place of their own.
Develop Special Quiet Time Activities
Children are not naturally quiet. They are built to run, romp, yell and have fun. When you bring home a baby to a small house or apartment, there will be times when this very natural behavior will not be acceptable. Forestall conflict in your family by developing ways for your current child to let off a little steam safely, and prepare him or her to play quietly alone some of the time. Collect some good books, coloring activity books, or even purchase a child friendly computer tablet and load it with educational games – but don’t forget to provide a set of headphones!
Remember, it is so much easier to be still and quiet if you have something fun to do.
A Little Homework for Mom and Dad
What and how much you tell your child isn’t as important as it is reassuring him or her that they are still loved. Especially during the first six years of life, you are your child’s security. Show your child that you still love them as much as ever. And you can – because love is one of those elastic things where the more you give, the more you have to give.
One way you can show your older child that you care is to help prepare ways to keep special things safe from the new younger sibling. Before you begin to think about it, a baby will begin to crawl and pull up on furniture. You can protect both your children by making sure that the model airplane is safely out of Baby’s reach and by providing older children with a secure place to keep items that are not baby safe.
Putting It All Together
The bottom line is to tell your child that a new family member is expected. Encourage your older child or children to anticipate the new baby as a joyous event, even if you might be struggling with the idea. And apply practical considerations such as making sure that the older children do not feel abandoned or left out. These things are much more important than explaining the mechanics of childbirth. That part will come along soon enough.
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