The Baby & Older Siblings
Certainly, one of the most exciting times in a family’s life is when they bring a new baby home. This situation is even more exciting, and a bit more nerve racking, if there are older siblings already at home. How do you help the older children to feel loved while you are spending so much time with the newborn? How do you create a smooth transition for everyone? These are important questions that can be answered with a number of suggestions.
There are many ways that you can subtly help to create a smooth transition for older siblings at the end of your pregnancy. If the children at home are quite young, try to explain to them that there is a baby on the way. Show them pictures of babies, and then point to your stomach. Explain to them that you have a baby there who will love them and who can’t wait to meet them. Let them feel your stomach as the baby kicks. If your children are older and can understand what is happening more, they can be involved in much of the process. Allow them to help you to pick out the crib, the room decorations, the baby book, and other items. They can shop with you for clothes, diapers and other essentials, and feel like they are really part of the process.
From the moment that the baby is born, you begin conveying important messages to your older children, whether you realize it or not. If the timing works out, let your children visit mommy and the new baby in the hospital or birthing center. Your husband and the children can pick out a gift for the baby or can make something special. Afterwards, your husband should take the kids out for a treat, like an ice cream or a movie. While this is an exciting time for the kids, it’s also full of changes and transitions. These changes can be difficult for the kids. If, however, you have a very young child who will only want to stay with mommy at the hospital and will get upset, then don’t take them to the hospital at all.
Children should be encouraged to make signs for mommy and the baby as they arrive home. As tired as you may be, and as protective of the new baby as you may feel, it’s important to immediately reincorporate into your family. That means that you should let your children hold the baby (within reason, of course) and should allow them to help you change diapers, clothe the baby, bathe the baby, and so on. In addition, while you may be exhausted, you should try to be part of the family’s routine; it’s important to still get up to greet them before school, if you always did this before, and to be “on” when they need you. New babies sleep a lot – use this time to focus on your other children and to give them attention.
Helping older children to adjust to a new baby is a team effort. Make sure that you and your partner work together during this time. It’s exciting to have an expanding family and your children should feel that the baby is a gift. There may be bumpy times during this process, but, hopefully, they will come to love the baby and to see that it isn’t a threat in any way.