There’s a Sibling on the Way
This article called “New experiences: a sibling” written by Annette Rawstrone for Nursery World magazine is a valuable read for impending parents of new siblings.
While the anticipated arrival of a new baby is often exciting for all the family, it can also be a worrying time of change for children. This can be heightened if they have not experienced becoming a big brother or sister before. You can ease the transition by carefully preparing your child for the birth of their sibling and then planning how best to continue supporting them afterwards.
How to prepare
It is important to speak to your child about getting a new brother or sister so that they are ready for the change. It often helps to read story books on the subject, discuss what is happening and how the characters are feeling. Try to answer any questions in an honest and age-appropriate way.
Make your child feel included by showing them baby scans and letting them help to get things ready for the baby. Encourage them to join in with the excitement of feeling the baby kick or talking to the bump. Also, reassure them about how they were equally anticipated and loved by showing them the baby photos. This can help them remember that they also had special care and attention, while encouraging them to focus on what the new-born baby’s needs may be, such as frequent feeding and nappy changes.
Ask your child how they would like to help when the baby is born and stress the importance of their role as big brother or sister. Your child may show an interest in play with dolls and you could join in with their play – provide a bath to wash the baby, nappies, Babygro’s and a comfy chair in which to bottle or breast feed.
Plan for any big adjustments to routines such as sleeping arrangements and do them a few months before or after the birth so that the child doesn’t experience lots of upheaval at the same time.
Don’t forget to prepare your child for what will happen when you go into labour – explain to them who will be looking after them and where they will be sleeping. Perhaps they could pack an over night bag while you prepare your hospital bag.
How your child may react
Having a new baby in the household is a huge adjustment for everyone in the family, not just a child. It’s important to remember their feelings and emotions in the run up to the birth and once the baby has arrived.
Reactions can differ depending on the child’s age and their position in the family, but they commonly include:
- Worrying about how the new baby will affect them and their place within the family, which may lead to them becoming easily upset, clingy or more demanding.
- Mixed emotions may be conveyed by regressing to ‘babyish’ behaviour themselves such as tantrums, sleepless nights and wetting themselves despite being toilet trained.
- Feelings of jealousy or resentment towards the new baby, which can start before it is born. This may be shown by being aggressive toward the ‘bump’ or their new sibling.
What to do after the birth
- Consider buying a small present to give to the child from the baby.
- Discuss how delicate the new baby is and how you carefully hold and care for them.
- Include them in the new baby’s care by getting them to be the ‘big helper’ or look after their own ‘baby’ alongside so that they feel involved.
- Try to keep your older child in as normal routine as possible to support security.
- Don’t make everything about the new baby. Chat to your older child about what they have done at nursery, a TV programme they’ve watched or simply what’s for dinner.
- Make the effort to give them extra praise and cuddles, and try to give them attention whenever possible, such as reading to them while feeding the baby or playing together when the baby is asleep. This will help them feel assured that they still have your love.
- Try to embrace the early chaos and relax into life as a bigger family.