Arrival of a new born brings joy and excitement to the family. Parents need preparation to welcome the new addition to the family. Lot of groundwork is required to ensure that the basic needs of the new born are met. It is also essential that the newborn’s sibling is equally prepared to accept the arrival of the new born. This applies especially, when the older child is between one and three years. Else, feelings of jealousy, anger, or negativity can easily crop up in the older child towards her little brother or sister. Parents should invest enough time to ensure that the older child understands and get accustomed to all the changes that she would face with the birth of the little one.
Before the arrival of the baby
Depending on the maturity of your older child, explain to her the joy of having and growing up with siblings . You can describe stories of your own childhood with your siblings (if any) to make it easier for her to relate. Point out that the she along with the new baby will be the source of joy and cheerfulness at home. If your child is too young, discuss your pregnancy in their terms that they can easily relate. Painting a vivid picture of your pregnancy may lead to confusion. Since they may not understand the concept of time, give her a time frame of when she can welcome the newborn. E.g., In winter, during Christmas, or few weeks before her birthday and so on.
It is wise to include your child in most of the activities when you are preparing for the new baby. This will help your older child to connect with your new born right from the beginning. Go through her baby pictures along with her and explain the story of her birth. Read stories about families having siblings. Take her along with you to the doctor and make her hear the baby’s heartbeat. Sit together and think of possible names for your baby. Encourage her to read a story to your unborn right from pregnancy. Get her help to prepare the new crib and decorate the room to welcome the newborn. This instills responsibility and pride of being an older brother/sister.
3. Planning the childbirth
As the day nears, ensure that you make appropriate arrangements for your older one when you are at the hospital. Give enough time for all the major milestones of your older child. If you plan to get her a new bed or a room, plan it days ahead before the new baby arrives. Accustom her to the new environment so that she does not get cranky when you are away. Ensure your child spends enough time with caregivers so that they can take care of her needs while you take care of the baby. Bottom line is to keep her routines as regular as possible before the arrival of the new born.
After the child birth
1. Bond with the newborn
As soon as your baby is born, get your older child to visit you at the hospital to help her bond with the newborn. If she does not show any interest in the baby, do not show your surprise or anxiety to your older child. Do not force your child to cuddle or bond unless she shows interest. You should give her ample time to accept a major change in her life.
Once the newborn is home, involve your child to help in various activities with the baby. This will ensure that your older child is not ignored. Take her help as much as possible (only if she is willing) to help you push the pram, change diapers, clothe the baby, etc. These activities will not only foster goodwill towards the newborn, it also gives time for you to spend with the older kid.
3. Set aside time
Even though your younger one needs your maximum attention, your older child also needs as much time and attention. Set aside quality time every day with your older child when you both can do any activity that you both enjoy. These moments are very special to your older child and it goes a long way in molding their behavior. Also, if your older child craves your attention, do not scoff her away. Do not expect her to be less dependent on you because she is an older sibling. You should also remind other family members to treat and pay attention to the older child the way they used to, before the arrival of the baby. Help your child to express her feelings verbally. Understand and never make fun of your child’s feelings. If they do express negative feelings towards the child, do acknowledge and suggest solutions to the problems that she might have.
4. Never ignore
Consciously make efforts not to ignore your older child and her feelings. Do not expect her to share all her toys with the newborn. She may have a reason for not sharing which you should try to understand and not force things on her. Remind your friends and relatives to gift your older child also when they visit the newborn. This way, she will not feel left out and ignored. It is also healthy to encourage your older child to plan a gift for your newborn.
Anticipating and understanding the feelings of your older child will make it easier for your child to adjust and accept a new addition in the family.