Nothing changes a family’s dynamic like the addition of a child, and nothing can shake the sense of self that a young child has like the addition of a sibling. Preparing a child for the arrival of a new brother or sister can go a very long way in easing the transition.
How much you talk to your child about the impending arrival of a new baby depends not only on the child’s age, but also on each child’s unique disposition. Some children may notice that mommy has been acting different, warranting a heart-to-heart about what’s going on in the family while mom is in the throes of morning sickness. Other children may be oblivious to any change and need to be explicitly told about their mother’s growing belly and what it means.
Either way, beginning to discuss the upcoming change in your family well before the new baby’s birth gives you plenty of time to bring up various topics related to a new sibling, allow your child time to process what you’re saying, and then ask questions as he thinks of them. You never know what concerns are harbored in little hearts, and allowing time for these to be addressed will help smooth any bumps along the way.
Anticipating possible complicated emotions and speaking to them before they become a problem is another strategy that will pay off in the long run. For instance, telling your child that you have plenty of love in your heart to love both him and the baby could forestall some emotional angst.
Preparing your child for some of the environmental changes that will occur will also pave the way for a pleasant adjustment. Talk to your child about diaper changes, sleeping arrangements, and breast- or bottle feeding. Your explanation could sound something like this: “Honey, when the baby is born, Mommy will be spending a lot of time in the rocking chair feeding her. You can come and sit next to me.” Or, “When baby is born, she will be sleeping in the room with Mommy and Daddy so Mommy can feed her during the night. You used to sleep in Mommy and Daddy’s room, too. You’re a big kid, so you’ll be sleeping in your room, just like you do now. But if you want, maybe you can have a sleepover in our room one night.”
Discussing your child’s role as a on older sibling will help set him up for his new role in the family. Building up his confidence and making him feel important with encouragement like, “The baby is so lucky to have you, and I’m so lucky to have you as my special helper,” will help children see the change in a positive light.
In addition to talking to your child about the baby and the changes in your family, find some books centered on the topic of having a new baby in the house or becoming an older sibling. Books are always an excellent way to open up conversations and also to discuss things in a safer space that isn’t directly related to Baby himself.
Including your child in preparations for the baby, such as clothes shopping or setting up the nursery together, will also help confirm the feeling that, rather than something that’s happening to him, your child is an active participant in an important and exciting change coming to the family.
In all these preparations, don’t forget to spend time with your child that is centered on him and his personal and unique interests. This will become your “action that speaks louder than words” and show your child how much he means to you. This is the essence of helping a child remain anchored and secure in the family, even with the monumental change of a new sibling.
About the author:
Shifrah lives in Tallahasse, FL with her husband, four children, two cats, and dog. In the midst of mothering and writing, she enjoys reading, lifestyle photography, sewing, going to the beach, and documenting it all in pocket scrapbooks. She drinks her coffee black.