How To Prepare Your Child For The Arrival Of A Younger Sibling
Today we're going to answer one of our Kindermusik mom’s question, "How to prepare my son for the arrival of our new baby, and his new baby brother."
This mom is due next month, so she's wondering what she can do to help her older child prepare for the arrival of a younger sibling.
First thing is - it's hard not to worry.
I know you're always worrying about that first born, or that older child, and how they're going to react, but I would like you to try to reframe what you think your child is thinking.
What's in his little brain? How is he perceiving things?
When you take this into focus, you can start figuring out how to handle some of the situations.
One of my favorite suggestions I give to moms that are expecting number two or number three is when you're in the hospital after the baby is born, you have to plan carefully for that first visit from your older child.
Your older child walks into the room, sees you in this bed with all of these knobs, and electronic things, and lights flashing, and he's in shock.
"What is my mother doing in this strange room with all of these non-homey items?"
You know, the buttons, the lights, the electronics, the wires, the beeping.
It's a little frightening for them. It's a little scary, and if you also have your newborn baby with you the first time that child walks into the room, it's so much of a shock.
Here's a suggestion that I have given many families over the years, and it's worked really well for them.
When you plan the visit of the older sibling, have a couple things ready.
Have a photo of your older child in your room, maybe on the little tray that scoots in front of your bed.
Make sure you have them come at lunch time, and have Dad, or Grandma, or Aunt, or whoever is bringing him to pack their lunch and bring his lunch. "You are going to go see Mommy and have lunch with her."
If possible, have the newborn baby back at the nursery instead of in your room. I know that may be a challenge with some of the maternity wards at hospitals these days. Perhaps the baby can be sleeping in their little bassinet in your room rather than in your arms when your older child enters your room.
Now, when your child walks in, first they have to get used to the new surroundings in the room. It can be a little bit frightening for them.
Then, let them climb up on your bed and play with the button that moves the bed up and down, and make a little game of it. Get them a little bit more comfortable.
They're in the bed with you now, they're close to you, you're touching them, you're making eye contact, you're playing with the button to make the bed go up and down, and they're having fun.
Let them sit in bed with you to have their lunch. Have your lunch come at the same time and eat lunch together.
As they start to get comfortable and feel safe, then you can have the new baby come into your arms and introduce them.
This has worked really well for several people that we've suggested this to over the years. It just eases your child into that amazing shock of what's happening.
When Baby Comes Home
When you bring your precious baby home, your routine now has to be followed around the baby's needs. But your older child still needs their routine.
Children feel very comfortable and safe when they have a set routine every day, so as best as you can keep their routine going too.
Keep the routine so that when they wake up they do this, this, and this.
They might play, then brush their teeth.
They might have a diaper change, they might get dressed.
Maybe you have a special ritual before bath time.
Maybe you go to a specific class on a certain day of the week, such as Kindermusik on Tuesdays.
Make sure they keep their routine.
I know that it's challenging to have a new baby and keep your older child's routine, but if you work at it just a little harder you can do it. You will see that it makes the rest of the day a little bit easier for you, because your child is comfortable fitting into their normal routine.
Get Into Your Child’s Mindset
Rather than worrying about your child, think about what they're thinking.
What's going through their brain?
All of a sudden, if it was an only child, they had you one-to-one. They had you, and just you, and they had all of your attention when it was your play time, and your together time, and now there is this baby that's taking a little bit of Mommy's time away from me. For example, you're nursing, changing diapers, walking the baby around the room to comfort them, and you're burping the baby.
Create a few more "I love you" rituals with your child.
"I Love You" rituals come from Dr. Becky Bailey, who is the creator and author of "Conscious Discipline."
"I Love You" rituals have four components:
If you do little finger plays, or little songs that you sing with your child, it’s easy and natural to make eye contact, touch them, be present with them, and be playful.
Adding a few more "I Love You" rituals to your day will make your child feel more connected to you, so that when you do have that time with the baby your older child won't feel like they're left out. Because they've got a little bit more connection with you.
As one of my dear friends says, "You're helping fill up their love tank," and when you do that the behavior is a little bit easier to deal with.
Let your child be of service to you.
They love to help, so it's okay to get them involved in things that you're doing with the baby.
Maybe it's, "Can you bring me that diaper?"
Maybe it's, "If you bring me the diaper and the wipes, we can change the baby together."
"I need that little pillow over there. If you bring it to me, it will be easier to feed the baby. You brought me the pillow. You did it. That was helpful."
Conversations like that with your child allows them to feel that they're more important, that they're needed, that they're helping you.
They have this innate sense that they do want to help you and be of service, so allow that to happen.
Think of ways that your child can help you.
The last little trick I did with my children, and they're in their 20's now, was to always have a sippy cup available, or whatever cups you're using today, filled with water and maybe a little touch of juice. I always had it ready so that when I was nursing the baby if my son wanted a drink too, I had it ready for him.
If you have been through this before and you have some great tips or comments, feel free to put them in the comment boxes below, because expectant moms are curious. I know there's many more of you out there that would love some tips with dealing with this very, very big transition in your child's life.
Remember young children don't know how to express their emotions very well.
They're still young, and all of these emotions are happening inside their bodies.
We want to help bring that emotion up and out of them, so play music and sing songs with them, because music helps your child feel their emotions.