Preparing Your Older Child for the Baby

It's important to prepare your child for the birth of the newborn early on. Sibling rivalry is fueled when a child feels displaced by the arrival of his new baby sibling. Research shows that your child's temperament makes a difference in how she handles the coming of the newborn. Children who are strongly attached to their mothers will take the change harder than those attached to their fathers.

Your child may act out in several ways. He may regress back to 'babyish' behavior in a demand for your attention. He may also show aggression toward the newborn. You will definitely want to curb this behavior. Follow this advice on how to set your older child at ease.

Things You Can Do Before the Birth
Some parents wait until the end of the first trimester, other parents share the news shortly after they receive it themselves. It's advisable to share the news early on as this gives your child a longer window of time to get used to the idea. It's also easier to spend quality time with her now, as you don't have to care for the baby when it is in your belly!

Include your child as much as you can regarding the development the baby is going through in your womb; remind her that this is how she also developed. Share stories of your pregnancy with her and tell her about her birth.

Once you near your due date, don't change your child's routine. If your older child has to move into a new bedroom or bigger bed, start those changes in advance. If you wait until right before or directly after the newborn moves in, your firstborn will feel replaced.

Handle the topic of the newborn in positive ways. Show your older child how proud you are that you can help Mommy in the difficult task of raising the new sibling. Ask them for advice when shopping for baby articles; let them pick some of the stuff by themselves.

Hospital sibling tours. Many hospitals now offer classes for siblings that will educate them as to the birth of their brother or sister as well as showing them delivery rooms. The classes/tours average about two hours. This is a great way to demystify the delivery of the baby.

Some other tips:

  • Paint a realistic picture about what having a baby is like: you'll be tired and busy a lot of the time cause babies take up more time.
  • If you can stick to it, make a deal with your child that you two can have alone-time outings every once in a while.

At the Birth. You may want to include your child in the labor and/or delivery of the baby.

Things You Can Do After the Birth

The baby will take up much of your time and energy, and your older child will notice this. Keep making physical contact with your older child, as this will help them feel included in your new family situation. Although you've told your child she'll be entering a more mature role, don't expect them to take to this role immediately.

Ironically, by babying your child a bit, they'll be less likely to regress is unacceptable ways and will be more comfortable handling the situation with more responsibility.

Once the baby has arrived, allow your child to air her feelings about the newborn. The opportunity to express these feelings, positive or negative, will help your child cope and will help you better meet her concerns.

Mommy's Best Helper
Remember that by helping your child deal with the new family situation, you're helping yourself. Depending on the older child's age, she can help change diapers, clothe the baby, push the stroller or sing her to sleep. This will make her feel very important and will help her to bond with her new sibling.

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