To help an older child prepare for the arrival of a new baby, you can:
Get an early start on any major changes to daily routines. Give your child time to adapt to any big transitions long before the new baby comes home. This may include moving to a new bedroom, toilet training, or starting preschool.
Have conversations with them about the pregnancy and the upcoming addition to the family.
Let your child know what to expect. Give them a chance to ask questions and express their concerns.
Involve them in getting ready for the new baby, such as discussing potential names.
Bring them along to some antenatal appointments.
Read stories to the older sibling about having younger siblings. There are many children's books and videos that discuss getting a new brother or sister. These can help your child understand the process and make it easier for them to talk about their feelings.
Take them to visit friends who have babies.
Practice with a doll. Give your son or daughter a baby doll they can use to learn how to hold a baby. Praise them as they get the hang of supporting the head and using a gentle touch.
Share family memories. Break out the old baby books and tell your son or daughter how excited you were about their birth. Look through their baby photos and pick some out to display around the house.
Make your baby's homecoming a team effort. Give your kids a role to play. They may want to select the outfit the baby will wear home or help send out birth announcements. Make the day special with a cake and some small gifts for every family member.
Helping an older child adapt:
It is common for older children to experience feelings of jealousy. They may exhibit baby-like behaviours or seek attention through bottle feeding or using baby talk.
If possible, dedicate quality time to spend with your older child. Stick to their usual routines and engage in conversations or play games with them. Just 10 minutes of special one-on-one time can make a difference in helping them feel secure and adjust to their new role in the family.
How you can help prepare your child to adjust to a new baby:
Here are some steps to take after the new baby arrives:
1. Provide time and attention
Spend regular one-on-one time with your older child. However busy your schedule gets, set aside time to give each child your full attention. Plan special outings or let them choose a book or game to enjoy together.
2. Encourage visitors to acknowledge your older child as a great big brother or sister
It's easy for your son or daughter to feel left out when everyone is fussing over the baby. Make a deliberate effort to steer positive attention their way. Bring them into group discussions and brag a little about their accomplishments.
3. Encourage their involvement, particularly during playtime and reading sessions
Work as a team in caring for the new baby. Find age-appropriate tasks your kids can excel at. Even toddlers can help by smiling and talking with their new baby brother or sister. Older kids may want to pitch in with bathing and feeding. Let your family find its own comfort level. Avoid forcing them to be overly involved.
4. Respect your child's privacy
Siblings are great for teaching how to share, but your child probably still wants some items and places to call their own. Honour their preferences for toys they're happy to share and possessions that they want to use exclusively.
5. Praise your child for their contribution to your growing family
Most of all, let your son or daughter know how much you appreciate them. Applaud their progress in becoming more independent and giving of themselves to help the family run smoothly.
It's challenging to deal with a new baby. Reassure your child and give your children lots of attention and guidance to help keep harmony in the family. The relationship between brothers and sisters is a precious gift, so get them off to a great start.