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How to Prepare Your Older Child for a New Baby
Arrival of the New Baby in the Family - An Exciting Time
It is an exciting time for parents when it's time to welcome a new baby into the home. Everyone is happy and understandably so. Very little thought, however, is given by parents to how their existing child (children) would react to having a new baby join them. Parents assume that their child (children) would be just as excited as them at having a new baby come join the family. However, it's not often as simple as that for children. Different children may react in different ways. Some may share their parents' excitement and welcome the new baby warmly and with love. However, some children may react negatively and may feel threatened or jealous at having to share their parents' love and attention with the new arrival. Children who have a very close relationship with their mothers are especially prone to reacting negatively to the new arrival. On the other hand, children who share a closer relationship with their fathers seem to adjust better to the new baby. Also, if the older child is relatively younger, a 1, 2 or 3-year-old, they may have a tougher time getting to terms with sharing your love and attention with a new baby, than if the older child is much older.
It is therefore essential that you prepare your existing child (children) for the new baby that's due to join the family. One of the reasons why some children feel threatened by the arrival of a new baby is because they fear things being somehow different post the arrival of the new baby. They fear having to share your love and attention. They fear being sidelined and neglected. It is understandable when they've had your undivided love and attention thus far. Hence, it's important that you communicate with your older child (children) and give examples of your neighbors or relatives and reinforce the thought in them that having a little brother or sister can actually be lots of fun. You can thus make them look forward to the new baby, rather than feel threatened by it and fight it. Preparing your older child (children) sets the tone for a future positive relationship between the siblings. An early positive start to the relationship between your siblings would go a long way in furthering a close bond between them, rather than a confrontational, jealous, bitter relationship.
Help Prepare By Involving, Educating, Reassuring Your Child
Some ways to help prepare your existing child (children) are the following:
- Involve your child (children) in the birth process as much as you can. You can do so by sharing with them the good news about the impending arrival, ideally after the first trimester. It is better they hear the good news from you rather than from relatives or others. They'd feel reassured that they still mean a lot to you.
- It is a good idea to sit with your older children and scan through pictures of when they were babies. This would give them some perspective of what to expect and more importantly make them feel that having a new baby in the family is a natural process and would not in any way be a bad thing for them.
- If your older child (children) is still sharing your bedroom, then it is important that you transition them early on in the pregnancy, so they don't make a connection between the new baby arriving and them having to move out, not a pleasant memory. They may feel less wanted and sidelined if the transition takes place late in the pregnancy.
- Another way to prepare your older child (children) is to educate your child on how to handle babies, the correct way to hold them, care for them, etc. Also, sensitize them about how babies are and what their requirements will be. Teach them the importance of patience when caring for the baby, dealing with the baby crying, etc. Especially if your existing child/children are quite young, teach them that babies are not the same as dolls or toys and require delicate care and attention.
- Make them understand that once the new baby arrives your schedule as a mom may change and you may be more tired and that the baby may take more of your time and that none of this means that you love them any less. Make them understand that you love them very much and you'd try to give them as much as possible of your time, but if you can't, then to understand that it's not because you don't love them.
- Take your older child (children) along with you when you go shopping for supplies for the new baby. Allow them to make a few choices of clothes for the baby and so forth. The idea is to get the child involved in the whole process and thereby diminish any feeling of insecurity that they may have.
- Another great idea is to take your older child (children) to visit friends or family that have had a new baby recently. This would give them an idea of life with a new baby and more often than not, this is likely to be an exciting experience for them. They would see how cute and lovable a new baby is and having one in their home would be a prospect they'd then look forward to.
Once again, let them know clearly that the arrival of the new baby would in no way diminish the love you have for them. Constantly reassure if you feel there is a need for it - but make sure your children clearly know that they would in no way be neglected or treated differently.
Preparing your child (children) for the new baby's arrival can make the experience more enriching for the whole family. You wouldn't have to deal with an uncooperative, moody child, whilst having to deal with the baby at the same time. Prepare your child in advance and you can look forward to a happy motherhood/fatherhood, wherein your child (children) share in your joy fully and completely without feeling insecure or left out.