When you’re pregnant, one of the things you may be worried about is how to prepare your older children for a newborn. You might be worried about your older children becoming jealous, feeling left out, or overwhelmed. These tips can help you prepare your older children for the new arrival.
There’s no right or wrong way for you to share the news of your pregnancy with your older children. Tell them whenever you feel ready. You will need to tell them in an age-appropriate way. Younger children won’t really understand time, so when you’re discussing when the baby will come, use common points in the year like Christmas, Halloween, or the changing weather to help them understand.
Your children might have questions, and you should answer them, but don’t feel that you need to go into detail. Do remind them that they were also a baby and talk about how it will be to have another baby in the house. Ask them for their opinions on baby names, and baby items. Get your older children to be involved in the pre-arrival preparation.
Read age-appropriate books together on pregnancy and gaining a new baby brother or sister. Be prepared for some moodiness and give them reassurance on what their concerns might be. Some older children worry about having to share a favourite toy, so reassure them that their toy is their toy, and the baby will have his or her own toys.
Talk to your older children about being a big sibling. You could even give them a newborn doll and use it to demonstrate things like feeding a baby and changing nappies.
Don’t rush any impending milestones, like potty training, or moving bedrooms. This can make older children feel displaced. You may also want to think about buying them some new items when you’re buying baby items. Older children can feel a little jealous if the baby has lots of things, and they aren’t getting anything new.
The key to helping your older children cope during labour is a clear plan. Make sure they know who will be looking after them when you go into labour. Help them pack their own ‘labour bag’, and fill it with some of their favourite activities, books and snacks. Explain to them that you’ll be in the hospital, but they’ll be safe and cared for.
Your older children should be some of the first people to meet your new arrival, so they’re given the chance to connect as a family. This should be done as soon as you can, though when works for you, and it should be done without an audience. Let them react as naturally as they can and let this be a private family moment for you all. You could let your older children pick a gift for the baby and have gifts from the baby for them.
As you get more visitors, your older children may notice that the baby is getting lots of presents. You could think about having a supply of small toys, arts and crafts, books, or any other small treats that they would like. This doesn’t have to be costly, but a small gesture can help them feel less displaced or ignored.
When you get home with your newborn, be patient as this will be an adjustment. Your older child might regress and ask to be treated like a baby. Don’t react in a negative way to this. Instead, give them lots of praise when they act like a big girl or boy.
You can also encourage your child to help care for the baby. Ask them to get nappies, blankets, or toys. Perhaps they could help put socks on the baby or choose the baby’s outfit. Also make sure that you set aside time every day for just you and your older child without the baby. It may even be for ten minutes to read a book, but your older child will need to feel that you still have time for them.
You might also want to ask visitors to talk to your older children about anything but the new baby. They do have their own interests and talking about something other than the new arrival can show them that people are still interested in them as well.