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Darling baby: Preparing your child for a new sibling

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From: KIDSHELATH.ORG / Small Town Kids / Summer 2016

A baby brings many changes that can be harder for older siblings to handle. These steps can help your child adjust to the new arrival.

The arrival of baby brings many changes to a family. Parents spend a lot of energy on preparations and after the baby arrives much attention involves caring for the newborn.
All this change can be hard for older siblings to handle. It’s common for them to feel jealousy toward the newborn and to act out.
Parents can help the situation by preparing kids for an addition to the family.

During Pregnancy

When telling a child about an impending sibling, consider your comfort level and their maturity level. Preschoolers may not grasp concepts of time. It may be more useful to explain that the baby will arrive in a particular season, such as winter or when it’s cold.
Look into sibling birth classes. These classes can include lessons on how to hold a baby, explanations of how a baby is born and opportunities for kids to discuss their feelings about having a new sibling.

Planning for childbirth

As your due date draws near, make arrangements for the time when you’re in the hospital. Discuss these plans so kids know what to expect.
Consider letting your children visit you in the hospital as soon as possible after the baby is born, ideally when no other visitors are around. This reinforces the birth as an intimate family event.
Try to keep routines as regular as possible. If you plan to make room shifts to accommodate the baby, do it a few weeks before your due date.
If one of your children is approaching a developmental milestone, like potty training, try to make the change before your due date or put it off until after baby has been home for a while.

Bringing the baby home

Once the baby is home, include older children as much as possible in daily activities involving the baby so that they don’t feel left out. Siblings may want to entertain the baby during a diaper change, help push the carriage, talk to the baby or help in other ways.
If a child expresses no interest in the baby, don’t be alarmed and don’t force it. It can take time.
Take advantage of chances for one-on-one time with older kids. Knowing that there’s special time just for them may help ease resentment or anger about the new baby. Remind others that your older children might want to talk about something other than the baby. Continue to send older child to childcare or school, if you’re able. Keeping normal routines is helpful. When the older children come home, plan for quality family time with them.

Dealing with feelings

Encourage older kids to talk about their feelings about the new baby. If a child cannot express those feelings, don’t be surprised if he or she tests limits or reverts to speaking in baby talk.
If a child acts up, don’t bend the rules, but understand what feelings may be motivating that behavior. It could be a sign of needing more one-on-one time with you. Make it clear that feelings have to be expressed in appropriate ways.

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