How to Involve Children with a New Baby: Impact on Siblings, Ideas for Special Time, Gifts for All and a Grandma's Story
The arrival of a baby is always going to cause change - for everyone!
An older sibling is going to react, probably with joy and excitement but also with some apprehension as to what it's going to be like not having Mum and Dad to him/herself any more. There may be some jealousy even if the child does not want to feel it or doesn't understand what s/he's feeling. There might be guilt about those feelings and that in turn can cause upset, anger and ensuing problems. The key to making the most of the situation is, of course, to involve the older child as much as possible.
It's important to explain (some details depending on age):
- what's going to happen in practical terms, at the birth itself and afterwards,
- that things might be hectic during and after the birth, for a while,
- what contingency plans have been made in case of emergency,
- who might be looking after the child, even for a short time (involving some choice by the child if possible),
- what part the child can play to help Mum, to get things ready - discussing what should be in the nursery, what toys would be fun, what colours to choose, what baby clothes to get, even some discussion about names,
- that the child will have as much information as possible about what's going on at all times, especially being told as soon as the baby arrives and being able to see the new brother/sister as soon as possible.
Give the child his/her own time with Mum and Dad, doing things not connected with the baby. This doesn't necessarily mean spending money. These are things to do before and after the birth. Here are a few ideas:
- an afternoon watching the child's choice of dvd - together
- a walk out in the countryside, along the canal, looking round town at interesting things..... (this might have to be with Dad if Mum is near time!)
- playing games together - cards, ludo, jigsaw, hide & seek, I Spy - some of these games can have little treats for those who win (parents too, it's all about sharing); stickers, points towards something, sweets occasionally
- cooking with Mum or Dad - cupcakes (these can be personalised for each family member)
- special time with grandparents too
- a trip out occasionally, be it to the cinema, to a country park, bowling...
- ask the child what s/he would like to do
A Story for My Granddaughter
My granddaughter's Mum was adamant that her daughter would not feel left out when her little sister was born. We all did our bit to talk about it and give her time for herself. As a grandmother, I had an excuse to spoil her a bit more (not too much though!).
She had presents to commemorate her sister's birth, as well as presents from the baby. I decided to write her a story for the occasion; she loves writing too and we'd worked on little stories together (we're also in the process of writing a children's book). The story is pretty close to what actually happened! (Names have been changed.)
Sarah wondered what it would be like. She’d had Mum to herself for ten years. It was exciting that she was going to have a sister, going to be a big sister. It was good to be part of a family which was suddenly expanding. A sister and two new cousins!
Life had changed quite a lot in a year. A new school, a new house, Mum’s partner moving in and they were getting married soon – such a lot to think about. Sarah knew that she was included in everything; that she would know as soon as the baby was born, even though it might happen when she was away at her Auntie’s (having fun and being spoilt!).
Sophie arrived on a cold, snowy winter’s day. Sarah was away! She couldn’t wait to get to the hospital, to see the baby, to see Mummy. Oh, what a lovely sister! Sarah stood for ages just looking down at her, Sophie clutching her finger. So beautiful, so tiny, lots of shiny dark hair, dark eyes - brown or blue? “Can I hold her?”
Mummy gave Sarah a charm bracelet, a special present to remind her that she wasn’t forgotten amongst all the celebrations.
It was chaos at home; baby stuff everywhere. Sarah took her bags upstairs. “This place is never going to be the same again,” she thought. Grandma was downstairs. Here to help Mummy. Here with lots of presents for Sophie and Mummy.
Sarah went back downstairs. She sat cuddling her sister for a while. She didn’t want to hand her back; it was good holding the little warm bundle! She felt part of it all.
“Come and help me, sweetie,” said Grandma. “I need to sort out this bag of bits and pieces.” They went into the other room. “That’s for Sophie,” Grandma handed her a little parcel, “and these few things are for Mummy.”
“All these things; it’s nice of Grandma to give presents to my new sister,” thought Sarah, “and Mummy deserves something nice, because she’s tired and a bit sore.”
They went back to the chaos. Sarah gave Sophie her present; Mummy was so pleased, pleased with the baby’s cuddly teddy and with her own teddy-bear charm for her bracelet.
Sarah sat down and looked thoughtful. “Is it good to have a sister?” asked Grandma. “Yes!” replied Sarah emphatically. She sat quietly again.
A little later, Grandma was cradling Sophie in her arms. She got up and said, “I have a little present for you too, Sarah, but first, come with me.”
Still with the baby, Grandma led Sarah back upstairs, a bag in her hand. They reached Sarah’s bedroom.
“This is a present from your sister,” and, putting the bag on Sophie’s hand, she held it out. Inside was a plaque with a picture of a cat on it and the words “SPECIAL SISTER”.
“Sophie will know when she’s older that she gave you that for your door; by then, she will also know how special you really are.”
Suggested Presents for Big Sisters and Brothers
Photos and/or heart necklace with photo opening
a play room for both (depends on the differences in ages)
special weekend away - older one makes the choice of activities
special time with Mum (alone!) and quality time with parents when baby asleep
own time with grandparents
keeping a scrapbook made by big sister/brother
TIME TOGETHER FOR EVERYONE
Your family rôle
Are you the new baby's.....
Have you had problems coping with sibling relationships when a new baby arrives? In what capacity?
© 2012 Ann Carr