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Our Favourite Ways to Prepare for a New Sibling

The arrival of a new baby can be difficult for children to understand, and can cause emotional upheaval. We show you the ways you can ensure that your kids are looking forward to being a big brother or sister

 

Whether you count it as a blessing or a curse, not everyone gets to experience the mixed emotions attached to the arrival of a new sibling. You may have been waiting with anticipation for the stork to deliver your new brother or sister, or you might have taken a more selfish approach and questioned how the new arrival might change your life.

As a parent, there are many ways that you can try to prepare your children for the arrival of a sibling - making the transition easier on everyone. There will be moments of jealousy or playing up for your attention but, in the long run, how you prepare your child(ren) for their new sibling can make all the difference.

This week we've not only got some sound tips from our childcare experts but we asked those caring for children who were expecting a sibling to give us examples of how these tips help in real life situations.

Preparing before a new baby's arrival

Talk about babies

Take time out to talk about the arrival of a new baby with your child. Tell them about the arrival of your own sibling or read stories in which a new baby arrives.

How to prepare for a new babyMake sure you remain positive and talk about all of the good things associated with having a new sibling at home. Show them pictures of you as a baby and of them!

Spend time answering their questions as you go along.

Your child might have standard questions about the baby, but they may be worried about something you haven't even thought of. When you're discussing things, make sure you give them the freedom to ask anything that might be on their minds.

Visit other families with babies

If you have friends or relatives with newborns, see if you can spend a few hours in their company. Let your child get used to being around the new baby; let them hold them - with supervision, of course - and get used to how to behave gently around them.

Parent's perspective:

"I remember taking care of a child who was rather clumsy day to day, and terrified of her new sister arriving because she thought that she would be so small that she would break her.

Spending time with a friend's new baby allowed her to be more comfortable with herself around the child, and helped abate her fear of the impending arrival."

Explain the changes new babies bring

Part of the problem faced by children when a new baby joins the family is that there is a sudden sense of change. Where possible, if you know a change is going to take place, talk about it beforehand or implement it before the baby's arrival.

You might be changing which rooms your children sleep in, someone else might be taking them to school in the mornings, or you might be thinking about potty training - make these changes before the baby arrives so that your child doesn't relate them to the new addition. The more changes you can get out of the way before your new baby arrives, the easier it will be on you as parents as well.

Childcarer's perspective:

"The children I took care of were excited about the arrival of their new brother, but they were upset about the upheaval in the house, as they were juggling bedrooms so that the two eldest (6 and 8) would now share and the youngest (3.5) was moving out of the nursery.

The two girls were upset that they would have to share a room and the youngest was worried that he was moving further away from the bathroom - he had recently stopped sleeping with nappies and was worried he would start wetting the bed if he couldn't find the bathroom in the dark. As a family they decided to address the issues head-on a few months before the baby arrived...

They let the girls decorate their bedroom in two halves so they still felt they had their own space (the result was a half pink half purple room with a combination of unicorns and hearts), and they approached the little boy with a two-pronged approach.

Firstly they purchased a big boy bed to help him feel like he was growing up, and then they went out and purchased a series of nightlights that he helped install in the hallway, lighting up the pathway to the bathroom. It became his job every night after brushing his teeth and having a wee to turn on the lights on his way back to his room.

With these changes in place before the baby's arrival, the children had time to settle into new routines and spaces."

After the new baby arrives

Stick to a routine

Where possible, stick to a routine; if one parent has to stray from the routine for a bit while you adjust to the new arrival, try to keep your other children on a routine they are familiar with. This will make it easier in the long run, as you will find the two routines start to merge and you can manage everyone's lives and activities more easily.

Childcarer's perspective:

Keep your other children on a routine"I worked for a family once where the new baby was really hard to settle at night. As mum was breast feeding and up a lot through the night, dad took charge in the mornings; during the week he made sure that the kids were up at their usual time and ready for me to take them to school when I arrived.

He also made sure that he was home in the evening so that when I left and mum took time to give the older kids a bath and read them a story, dad had an hour to spend with the new baby - just the two of them. The older kids didn't feel their routine had changed and mum and dad both got quality time with all of the kids."

Ask for help

If your child feels they are needed and can be helpful they will be more engaged with their new sibling, start with including them in discussion about a gift for the baby, or get them to help you find the right nappies when you are out shopping. Be careful not to make it feel like a chore - you want to involve them but not turn them into gophers!

Parent's perspective:

"When my little brother came home from the hospital I remember my mum had bought me a doll to take care of, and when I showed that I could take care of my doll I was given the tasks of helping to take care of my brother.

I felt that I had accomplished something and that I was being a helpful big sister. Feeling like I was able to be part of his routine made me feel like I was important too."

One-to-one time is still important

Don't forget to spend individual quality time with each of your children. Life can seem extra busy when a new baby is added to the mix, but it's important to spend time with each of your children doing things that you enjoy together. Whether it's kicking a ball around at the park or having a hot chocolate on a Saturday morning, that time is special. Work with your partner to find a way that each of you can spend time with your children during the week.

Childcarer's perspective:

"One of my charges had recently started sleeping through the night without wetting the bed when her youngest sister arrived. Shortly after, the accidents started again and she was embarrassed and her parents were frustrated - but what they failed to realise was that no one was reading her a story before bed.

In the chaos to get baby settled, she felt like she wasn't important enough - once story time resumed the accidents stopped!"

Jealousy is natural

Everyone feels jealous at one time or another and it's important to remember that a certain level of jealousy is ok, but if it gets out of control or becomes violent, you need to address the situation. Think about how things have changed for your older children and see if there is something specific that triggers the jealousy.

Did one child recently stop breastfeeding and is jealous when they see their new sibling during feeding time? Or maybe they are sharing a room with the new baby and feel it is being taken over by baby paraphernalia! If you can find the root of the jealousy you should be able to rectify the situation.

Parent's perspective:

"When our new baby came along my daughter began acting out every time we went for a walk - and she used to love going for walks. She would throw a temper tantrum before, during and after the outings and it got to a point where I didn't want to take her with me.

Sibling jealousy is naturalHer dad asked her one day why she didn't like to go for walks with Mummy anymore and her response was candid - "she doesn't love me anymore because she doesn't hold my hand". I was beside myself that, because I was pushing the pram with two hands, she didn't think I loved her any more.

Our solution as a family was twofold; we purchased a baby carrier for those days when the three of us went out and when we went out as a family we made sure to take turns pushing the pram and holding on to that precious hand."

Aggressive behaviour

As a child it's hard to know what is too rough when it comes to a new sibling. Take the time to show them what you mean when you say they need to be gentle. Show them on their own bodies what it means to pat the baby on the head or hold their hand in a soft manner.

Sometimes they may be exhibiting aggressive behaviour, and other times they may think they are being affectionate. Defining the difference is important so that you know whether you need to pay more attention or if a little lesson in "gently gently" is needed!

Childcarer's perspective:

"One of the families I looked after had an older boy (8) and a little girl who had just started to walk. The parents were concerned because the boy kept "punching" his sister on the arm when they were playing. As we discovered, this was a common practice on his football team - and meant affectionately. In simple terms he thought he was being nice! 

We discussed how it might feel if his dad punched him in the arm with all his strength, and talked about the difference in their size! We decided that rather than scolding him when he did something with a little too much gusto, we'd have a code word - in this case "doucement". The family didn't feel like they were always getting him in trouble and he found new ways to tell his sister he loved her."

Praise for everyone

Just like you will thank friends for bringing over home cooked meals, remember to praise those close by when they do something especially nice or helpful.

When a new baby arrives, emotions can run high, and mum and dad tend to be a little more tired than usual - other children often bear the brunt of short tempers. Things they used to do that wouldn't bother you might get under your skin now, so it's extra important to let them know when they are doing things well!

Parent's perspective:

"When we brought home our second child I thought I'd be able to manage with the night feeds and getting our daughter ready for school - but I soon realised I was in over my head. I snapped at everyone and my daughter seemed to annoy me at every turn.

When I started snapping at my husband as well, I realised maybe the problem was me. It took a few weeks of trying to rebalance things but I realised that the more positive I was in my communication, the more helpful both my daughter and my husband were."

Last, but not least - ask for help if you need it!

Remember to praise the kids

No one but you knows how you are coping, so if you need help or something isn't working, sit down with your partner or the whole family. Have a frank talk about what's working - start with the positives - and what's not. Try not to dwell on the negatives but rather the solutions, and finish things off with a group hug or a chocolate sundae!

 
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