You and your spouse are not the only ones expecting a baby. So are your children. If you think pregnancy is hard on you, imagine what it is doing to them. Children, even young ones, know change is coming, but they don't really know what life will be like once the baby is in the house. Expect some nervousness and resentment, along with their wonder and curiosity.
One of the best ways to prepare your children for their new brother or sister is to involve them in the pregnancy. Depending on their age, let them know what is going on inside the womb. You don't need to overload them. Give them information they can understand. For example, a three-year-old may only understand that a baby is coming soon. A five-year-old might understand that a baby is growing inside mommy's tummy. A 10-year-old may want to know how babies grow. Children will not react the same way to a pregnancy, either. If any of your children are old enough, take them to one of your medical appointments so they can hear the baby's heartbeat. Later, let them feel their new sibling kick.
Talk honestly with your children about what having a new baby in the house will be like. Ask each child to think of things they may want to do to help you and the baby. Also, discuss ways they can ask you for time, attention and loving, once the baby has arrived. If you develop plans together in advance, it will greatly relieve some of the anxiety a child has about losing you.
What To Say and Do
- The baby will require more time and attention, as well as frequent feeding, burping and diapering. Let your children know the baby won't actually be "fun" to play with for several years.
- Remind and show your children that you still love them as much as ever, and that having a new sister or brother in the house will not decrease your love for them, or their importance to you and the rest of the family.
- Get the children involved in preparing for the baby. Let them come with you when you pick out clothing, baby furniture, colors or anything else that has to do with the new baby, and make sure that they are actively involved in the process of getting the home ready for their new sibling.
- More and more hospitals and birthing centers now offer sibling classes. Sign them up.
- Ask a friend or relative to do something special with your older children shortly after the new baby arrives.
- Let them get involved in caring for the baby, picking out what outfits they should wear or the toys that should go into the crib or on the stroller.
When time for the new baby arrives and you pull out the camera, make sure that all of your children are in at least some of the photos. And don't panic if brotherly or sisterly love doesn't blossom as soon as the new baby comes home. It can take time for your older children to bond with and love their sibling. But, if your love and acceptance of them is reassured, it will happen. Just give it time.