How to Prepare Your Child for a New Sibling
Adding another child to your family is a big adjustment. Did you give away all your old baby things? Will you need a new car seat? Should the baby share a room with the older sibling? You and your spouse have numerous questions that need answering. Just don't forget your current child (or children) in the shuffle. This will be a big adjustment for them too and they will need help adjusting.
Preparing Children for a New Baby
For my children we began our introduction with some books to help them grasp the idea of what having a baby around will mean. A fun little book for introducing what babies are like is Biscuit and the Baby. It is a cute little story about a puppy being introduced to the new baby. Biscuit, the puppy, wants to meet the new baby but he has to wait because the baby is sleeping. He tries playing with the baby's things and is told, "Those are for the baby." The story ends with the puppy and baby each staring at one another as they meet for the first time.
This sweet little story is a great way to introduce a couple of important ideas. Firstly, the baby will spend a lot of time sleeping as she grows bigger. We told our daughter that the baby needed to sleep in order to grow big and strong (thereby being able to play with her). The second idea that can be discussed through this story (and in some ways it is almost more important) is that the baby will have her own things. These things will belong to the baby - not the baby's sister! If you child has not yet been put into a situation were she has had to share this can be very difficult. I would recommend getting your child into a play group or spending more time with cousins so that she is familiar with sharing before she has to share with the baby.
Another very good book to read is I'm a Big Sister or I'm a Big Brother. The book walks through some of the many things that the baby will not be able to do. It also introduces important concepts like no holding baby without asking Mommy, babies don't talk they cry to communicate and that being big has it's advantages. There is also a note to parents at the end with a few types to help your child make the adjustment.
After reading this book we discussed some of the rules associated with having a baby. Using my daughter's baby album, we talked about what babies need and ways that she could help as the big sister: singing to the baby, playing peek-a-boo and setting out the baby's toys for tummy time. We also spent a good deal of time discussing the advantages of being a big girl.
Books about New Baby for Older Siblings
Introducing the New Baby to Siblings
When the new baby is actually brought home it is inevitable that jealous feelings will crop up. A good book for discussing those feelings is Julius, the Baby of the World. In this story the older sister, Lily, is extremely jealous of her younger brother. Throughout the story she does many outrageous things in her jealousy, but by the end of the story she realizes that she does in fact love her baby brother and everyone else should too (this realization was prompted by her cousin not liking her brother).
During the story Lily spends much of her time in the punishment chair but her parents continue to love her and her baby brother. This allows you to discuss how even though Lily felt jealous she should not have acted out. Then you can ask your child, "Did Lily's parents stop loving her because there was a new baby in the family?" This will allow you to reiterate that Mommy and Daddy will never stop loving you either. Also, take the time to point out the there were consequences for Lily's behavior. Remind your child of the consequences in your home. Laugh with your child about how silly Lily is being and explain that she should have talked to her parent about her feelings.
A new baby is a big adjustment for a family. The younger member do not have experience adapting to change and will need your help even more as you transition. Spend extra time with the explaining all that the changes will mean. And don't forget to continue to spend that one on one time even after the baby is born. Perhaps have a special story hour. This low key activity will not require a lot of your sleep deprived body but will help your child continue to feel loved. Congratulations on the new baby and good luck!