New Brother Or Sister Coming!!

09 Apr 2015

Preparing other children for the arrival of a new baby can be tricky.  Even small children can sense the change in Mummy when she is pregnant, older children may appear impassive or excited but hide the fears that a change in family structure brings.

When First Pregnant

When you are first pregnant it may feel very exciting but for a smaller child it can be quite confusing as there's nothing to see or feel as yet for them.  Small children also don't understand the concept of time very well - for them an hour and a year are the same.  So if they get very excited about a baby coming "soon" it can be frustrating and disappointing when nothing happens for quite a long time.  Try to avoid timeframes or keep it broad such as seasons - ie when the leaves start to fall from the trees then baby will almost be here.

For siblings of all ages keep any information simple and easy for them and be guided by how much they want to ask about the new baby.  For small children don't assume that if they can't talk they won't understand what is going on!  Small children can understand language and facial expressions and even the mood very early on.  Involve them as much as they want to be involved.  For older children they may retreat and be quiet while they process the change.  Encourage them to ask questions but don't force the subject.  For some children there are books specially targetted at their age group that can help.  If the child seems interested you could take them along to appointments and encourage them to ask questions about the new baby there.  

During Pregnancy

Siblings can get involved in the pregnancy by talking and singing to the bump, preparing babys room or choosing clothes.  Try to avoid telling small children that baby is coming to play with them as newborns take a long time before they are even able to interact.  

If changes need to be made to the other child(ren)s routine then make those changes as early as possible so that any upset is not associated with the baby coming.  If possible don't introduce any stressful changes close to birth or shortly afterwards (ie potty training, giving up dummies, going into childcare).  You may notice that children of any age regress in their behaviour, become clingy or "act up" for attention.  This is normal and if possible don't punish them.  Instead focus on praising good behaviour, give your child lots and lots and lots of reassurance.  They need to be told that you will still love them exactly as much as you do now and will still be able to give them lots of cuddles and kisses.

Keep your childs routine the same as much as is physically possible.  If tiredness, sickness or pregnancy side effects such as SPD mean you are unable to play with or carry your child as much then explain that it's only temporary and maybe agree a new way to share time or cuddles.

If the child(ren) will need to spend some time during birth with another relative or friend it can be helpful for them to spend some time with that person in advance of baby's arrival.  It can also be helpful for them to spend time around new babies so they can see Mummy/Daddy holding a new baby and be reassured through any jealousy.

After Birth

Its good for the older child to meet the baby at hospital on neutral ground.  When the older child arrives give them lots of attention and love and hugs as that is the critical point where they are working out their place in the new family.  Sometimes it's nice to give the older brother or sister a gift from the baby.

Again reassurance and love are key through the early days.  Lots will be different for the older brother or sister.  Getting them involved in caring for the baby will give them a sense of importance and a role in the family.  Again the older child is likely to act up, possibly go back to more baby like behaviour (ie wanting a dummy again, needing nappies if they were dry, sleeping badly etc) this is a normal phase so is not to be punished but keep giving reassurance and praise the good behaviour.

If Mum is likely to be occupied with baby for long spells then the child can benefit from a special bag of toys/colourings/activities that they can only use during those times.  This changes the time to a positive one for the child.

If visitors are coming and are likely to bring new baby gifts then have a stash of big brother/big sister gifts for the older child so that they do not feel left out.

When taking pictures include the older brother or sister as much as possible.

Lastly new babies cry - sometimes a lot - let the older child know that this is simply babies way of talking as he can't make words yet.  If the older child seems distressed by babies crying ask the child - what do you think he is asking for? It can help the crying seem more normal.

In Summary (Did I say it before??!!)  REASSURANCE REASSURANCE REASSURANCE!!