You're having a new baby soon. You hope your older child (or children) will be able to transition smoothly to having a new little one around. As parents, we usually have concerns about whether the older child will get enough attention, how you will divide your time (and love!), whether they will be jealous, and whether they'll express those new emotions in new and unwanted behaviors.
The good news? Evidence shows that when you take dedicated time to help prepare your little one(s) for the new baby, children exhibit fewer anxieties, are better able to express their feelings, and parents are better able to cope with the new responsibility of an additional family member.
We've come up with 10 fantastic and easy ways for you to prepare your child for the new baby while you've still got time! We often spend dedicated and carved out time during pregnancy to prepare ourselves, such as attending a birthing or parenting class, reading books, reading blogs, researching and shopping for baby items, etc. But our children's worlds will be turning upside down too! They need and deserve the same attention and preparation. In addition to preparing your child for this new life change, it will give you some final opportunities to spend time together and bond.
1. Read age-appropriate books about birth and having a new sibling.
Take your son or daughter to the book store to pick out some books about having a new baby. There are some fantastic books for toddlers as well as older siblings, too. Read books about the birth process and talk to them (in age-appropriate language) about how the baby will come out of your body.
2. Go through your child's own baby photos and videos and talk about the things you did together when they were a baby.
Children LOVE to see themselves as babies! Show them photos and talk to them about the blankets they used to love and how baby sister or brother will likely sleep with that same blanket, too. Show them their own videos and talk about what kind of sounds and movements babies make. Share with them how cute, cuddly, and adorable they were and how you can't wait for them to snuggle up with the new baby!
3. Visit friends with babies or infants.
Nothing beats the real thing. Your child(ren) will have the opportunity to see how the baby eats, how they sleep, experience the "hush" in the room when the baby falls asleep, and understand how to hold baby safely.
4. Place an ultrasound picture in your child's room.
We all hope our kids will form an amazing bond and be best friends forever, right? Why not start encouraging that now? Put an ultrasound picture on your child's wall so that he can look at his baby sister whenever he wants. When the baby is born, he may be sad to know that his sister sleeps in a different room, so he can still look at her when he misses her. You can replace the photo with a real photo after she's born, if you'd like.
5. Take your child on the the hospital tour with you.
To a child, the hospital may be either completely unknown or a place for sick people. It may ease their mind to understand where their parents are for a few days while the baby is coming or finally here. Take them on the hospital tour with you if you feel like they're old enough to understand a bit and talk to them about where you'll be and what will be happening. "This is the room where the baby will come out. I'll be doing hard work in here and those nice nurses will be helping me!" "This is the room where I'll go when your little sister is here. We will rest after all that work until we're ready to come home. You will come visit us in this room and see your sister!"
6. Let your child help you pack your hospital bag.
In order to help prepare your child for the time when you're away having baby, they can help you pack your bag. "We're packing pajamas because we'll be gone for a few nights while you sleep in your bed with grandma." "This is your sister's first hat! Do you think she should wear this on the car ride home from the hospital?" It will hopefully keep your child feeling involved and give them some ownership of the process and decisions, even while you're away at the hospital.
7. Talk to your son or daughter about baby names and hear their input or opinion.
Kids can come up with the craziest names! It's so cute to hear their opinions and ideas! If your son wants to call his baby sister "batman", maybe he can call her that while she's still in your belly. And when she comes out, we can all agree to call her a different name.
8. Let them help you decorate or organize the nursery and baby's items.
They can bring you clothes to fold from the laundry, help you organize the changing station, or bring you wipes and diapers. This can help them feel involved and like the "big brother" or "big sister" before baby is even here. Hopefully, they will still be able to help you with those same tasks after baby has arrived.
9. Encourage them to talk to baby and feel his/her kicks.
Babies in utero are SMART. They can hear us talking to them and like to kick our hands when we feel around, too! Encourage your little one to talk to his/her little sister, tell her how she's loved and going to have so much fun when she comes out. Let him feel her kicks and tell him that she loves him too and this is her way of playing right now!
10. Create a "countdown" to baby's predicted arrival.
Depending on your child's age: You may create a countdown chain to your due date and have your older children take off a link each day. You can tell them that when the chain gets small, the baby could arrive anytime! And when the link is all gone, you can celebrate your due date as a family and get them excited for the surprise arrival! If you've got toddlers or little ones, talking to them about the "season" or "big event" that will happen when baby is predicted to arrive may be a little easier for them to understand. "When it gets hot out and we have beach days again, you know your sister will be here soon!" "Your little brother probably won't be here until after Christmas."
BONUS: Take a sibling preparation class!
Research has proven that taking a sibling preparation class with your child can ease the transition into being a new sibling and prepare your family for a smoother and less stressful beginning. If you're on the Eastern Shore, get ready! We're gearing up to release our Big Brother/Big Sister class!