Welcoming a new baby into the family is an exciting time. It can also be a difficult transition for your older children. Here are some tips for making the transition to big brother or big sister easier.
1. Read a lot of books to your child about babies, birth, and being an older sibling.
2. Encourage connection to the new baby by involving your older child in the naming process, in shopping for the new arrival, and in preparing the nursery or sleeping space for baby brother/sister.
3. Allow your older child to pick out a gift for her new sibling and wrap it. Let her know she’ll get a new present from the baby, too!
4. Take your child along to hear the baby’s heartbeat, and let him see ultrasound photos. Show him his own ultrasound photos, pictures of his birth and infancy, and talk about how you felt when you first held him in your arms.
5. Allow for plenty of bonding time with dad or grandma or whomever will be watching your child while you are giving birth. Prepare your child ahead of time for the separation so that she’ll know what to expect.
6. Keep your routine as regular as possible in the weeks leading up to the new arrival. This is not the time to transition to big beds or for potty learning. This should be done very early in pregnancy or well after the child has had adequate time to adjust to the changes a baby brings. Too many changes at once will overwhelm her.
Once Baby is Home:
1. Involve your older child in the care of the baby as much as possible. Rather than making him wait on the sidelines while you care for baby, which is likely to foster feelings of resentment, enlist his help.
2. Be sure to tell your older child how much she is still valued. Be specific in your praise and encouragement. “You mean the world to me. I’m so glad the baby has you for a big sister! She’ll learn all about being kind and helpful from her wonderful big sister.”
3. Let your older child overhear you telling the baby what a special big brother he has and how you hope he grows up to be a lot like big brother. Anytime our children hear us bragging on them to others, it boosts self-esteem and creates feelings of belonging and acceptance. Also tell people in front of him what a wonderful big brother he’s being. Save the negative comments, like “he’s been so clingy since the baby came home” for when he’s not in earshot.
4. Realize regression is normal and won’t last forever. Some children may start to act more like a baby again. It’s best to avoid criticizing this behavior and just provide love and acceptance. Once her emotions level out, she’ll act like herself again.