With a new baby on the way, there is a lot of excitement, joy, and preparation involved. In addition to all of these emotions and tasks to complete, parents also need to keep in mind of the feelings of their older child. For an older child, the thoughts of Mommy and Daddy having another baby could be mixed. There is the thrill of being a big brother/sister, but there are also concerns that the attention will no longer be on him/her as well as the uncertainty of what exactly a new baby entails. The older child might start to feel left out or the need to take on more responsibilities.
If you want to help your child accept being a big brother/sister, try the below strategies:
- Prepare your older child. Talk about the baby and what will be happening before, during and after the new baby comes with your oldest child. Read books to your child about new babies as well as about becoming a big brother/sister. In addition, get a baby doll for your child to start playing/interacting with. With a baby doll, you can help teach your child how to appropriately care and play with their new brother/sister.
- Keep the routine the same. When possible, keep your child’s routine the same throughout pregnancy as well as after the baby is born. Let your child stay in his/her different activities and allow him/her to continue doing the activities that he/she enjoys.
- Arrange for positive interactions. Your child can help with choosing items for the baby, such as for the baby’s room and the new baby’s clothes. Your oldest child and you can create a welcome card as well as get a special welcome gift that your child picks out himself/herself. Once the baby is born, your child can read books, sing songs and hold the new baby with supervision.
- Provide praise. When your older child is appropriately interacting with or helping out with the new baby, be sure to provide very specific praise for these situations. For example, “You are playing so nicely with your little brother/sister!” or “Thank you for bringing us a clean diaper!”.
- Brag about the older child. When the older child is around, talk to the baby about the great things he or she does. For example, “Look at how far Richie threw the ball! When you get older, he can teach you to throw far!” or “Your big sister, Sarah, is so helpful! She cleaned up all of the toys!”
- One-on-one time for each child. If you and the new baby are participating in “Mommy and Me” classes or “Daddy and Me” classes, make sure to also find a class or activity that you and the older child can go to together. Spending time together can be as simple as taking the older sibling with you on an errand while the baby stays at home with the other parent.
- Family time. Make sure to make time for family time and family outings. Include everyone in different activities that are be fun for both the older child as well as the new baby.
- Make the baby wait. In many cases, the older child will have to wait while you care for the baby. Every now and then, if possible, make the baby wait and finish helping out your older child. You do not always have to stop what you are doing as soon as the baby cries (as long as immediate attention is not necessary).
Before and after a new baby is introduced into the home, keep these tips in mind to help your older child accept and love being a big brother or sister. A new baby is an exciting and life-changing event for everyone in the household. At times, it’s easy to overlook the concerns of someone who might not be able to express themselves completely about the new addition to the family.