Helping Kids Prepare for a New Sibling
Monday June 1, 2015see more by christy
The Pregnancy Diaries
There is nothing like welcoming a new baby into your family. A sweet little angel that will bless you beyond belief…and change everything! And, it can be an exciting, happy, thrilling, confusing and scary time for new big brothers and sisters. Today, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite tips for helping kids prepare for a new sibling.
Involve them in the pregnancy
Explain how it’s going to work. And no, I don’t necessarily mean “the birds and the bees” talk or “how the baby is going to get out” talk (unless you’re ready for that!). What I mean is a high-level, big picture explanation of what’s going on with mommy…and depending on your child’s age, will depend on how much detail you choose to share. When you decide to talk to your older kids is also a consideration – whether you choose to tell them early on or once you start showing more.
With my seven and five-year-old, we waited until after we had our first ultrasound and saw (and heard!) that amazing flutter of a heartbeat. And we told them on Christmas morning – their last Christmas present that they “opened.” Once the excitement, jumping up and down, and squealing simmered, I explained that the new baby was growing in mama’s belly. The baby’s job was to grow a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger everyday, and that it was my job…our job…to help him or her. I went on to say that mom’s belly was going to get a little bigger everyday (which they thought was hilarious), and that there was going to be some things that I wouldn’t be able to do anymore…and would need their help, because they are were so big and strong and smart. They felt very important.
And thus began our family “pregnancy project.” I was no longer pregnant – “we” were pregnant. And they felt like they had a part in helping their new sibling from the beginning.
Let them help
Speaking of letting them help, I think this is absolutely essential in having your big kids feel a part of the pregnancy and their new sibling. The sooner they feel like they have an important part, the sooner they are more likely to be onboard.
We talk about our Baby Emma quite often, and have since we told the kids we were pregnant. I am constantly referring to them as “big sister” and “big brother.” I don’t just say how I’ll need their help once the baby comes, I tell them I need their help now. Because kids are all about the here and now and instant gratification. “When the baby comes” seems like a lifetime to them. So I say, involve the older siblings now! Here are some of the ways I ask my bigs to help me and baby girl:
– Every time they help you pick up something that you can’t reach, get you a snack, pick up their room, do their chores/tasks without complaint or asking, etc., praise them. “THANK you for helping mom and baby! I really appreciate you helping us. What an awesome big sister/brother you are – you’re already helping the baby!” Verbal praise goes a long way with my kids.
– Nesting? Let them help. Of course, depending on the age of your older sibling(s) will depend on what’s reasonable and doable. Mine are a bit older, so I let them help me go through baby boxes unearthed in the garage, and tell them funny or cute baby stories about when they were itty bitty. And how Baby Emma will love their ________ (whatever we are unpacking).
– Speaking of dragging all of the baby clothes and bins out from the garage, if your child is of appropriate age where they will understand, I recommend that you make a really big deal out of how much they are helping the baby by letting him/her use their old baby stuff.
– Take them shopping with you, and let them pick out something special for the baby. I don’t mean take them on every shopping trip. But schedule something where they can be part of it. Talk about what the baby will need.
– Let them help you set-up items where the baby will be. Give them an opportunity to fold clothes, put wall decals on the wall, organize baby toys, etc.
– If they are older, like my Elizabeth, ask them to help you make to-do lists. Elizabeth LOVES helping me organize and making lists to prepare for Baby Emma. Take a look at her latest below – love it, and I’m saving this one!
Let them bond
Here’s how I started encouraging the baby bonding with my two bigs – every time I would feel a flutter or kick (even before anyone else could feel it), I would say “Oh my goodness, baby is kicking mama! That means she hears your voice and is trying to get to you!”
I constantly say to both kids, “You two are going to be Baby Emma’s favorite people in the whole world. You’re going to teach her everything and be her best friends and protectors!” Now that she visibly kicks through my shirt, I’ll say, “Baby girl wants to play patty cake with you!” Or, “Baby girl wants a hug from you!” This is a super easy way to make a new big brother and/or sister feel special.
From the beginning, I’ve asked each child to read her a book or sing her a song each night. This has become part of our bedtime routine. They love “teaching” her new songs. Elizabeth is convinced that she will come out knowing her “ABCs” because she sings it to her every night. Nathan is constantly kissing my belly and getting right up to my belly button (which he thinks is a microphone) and tells her stories. Let them talk to the baby…and see how easy the bonding comes.
I’ve also started talking about how we will correctly hold the baby, burp the baby, snuggle the baby, etc. We get dolls out and each kid practices holding a “baby.” Here’s Nathan working on supporting the head.
If you’re up for it, let them come to a doctor’s appointment with you, where the can hear the heartbeat on the doppler. The first time I let Elizabeth hear at the appointment, it was magical to see her eyes lit up – “MOM! She’s REALLY in there!!”
If it’s not feasible for them to accompany you to the doctor, take an audio recording of the heartbeat with your phone, and share it with them at home!
Welcome “birthday” party
Who doesn’t love a party? Especially little kids (and big kids!)! And there has to be cake – because I know my kids don’t think it’s really a birthday party unless there’s cake! Ask them to make welcome signs for the new baby, get balloons and decorations, make birthday cards, etc. Make it a festive, happy party atmosphere for when mom and baby come home. You can even have them sing “Happy Birthday” to the new baby upon their arrival home!
New sibling gifts
On the flip side, I always have the new baby give a gift to their new big brother and/or sister. One of my friends suggested this to me way back when I was expecting Nathan and Elizabeth was only two-and-a-half-years old. It doesn’t have to be extravagant! Just something that the new baby can “give” to his/her new sibling to say thank for helping take care of me.
What are your best suggestions to help older kids prepare for a new baby? I would love to hear from you! Please share any sibling bonding or preparation tips in the comments below!