Five ways to prepare your child for a new sibling

28th September 2014

Bringing a baby into the world is, without a doubt, the most unique, exciting and overwhelming experience that Matt and I have been fortunate to have.  And we have done it twice! 

When the time came to welcome our second son, Owen, into the family, we had to consider how it would affect Liam and how we would attempt to prepare him for the massive change that was about to rock his world.

Liam would be three years old by the time Owen arrived. This is some of what we found to be helpful but each child is different. No one knows their kids better than you so, remember to communicate with them about their feelings and give them space and freedom to handle the situation in their own way. Don’t get discouraged if you do a million things to get them excited and they show zero interest. As my friend, Laura Rugh reminded me, it’s normal!

If your babies will be closer in age, check out these tips from Laura herself. She is a talented designer and amazing mom who has been a wonderful support for me in this transition. 

By now, you may or may not have assembled some version of a baby book featuring your first child.  Retrieve a handful of copies of those photos and some of the keepsakes and spend some time with your #1, looking through them, explaining the birth experience and working together to make a new  baby book.  It does not need to be elaborate or fancy.  This will not only make your child feel incredibly special and loved, but it will also be a great visual “sneak peek” at what newborns are all about.
Liam loved looking at baby pictures of himself!

Liam loved looking at baby pictures of himself as a baby!

Check at local hospital, OBGYN, or pediatrician’s office to find out if they offer any sibling classes.  We took Liam to one about 4 weeks prior to our due date and it was AWESOME. They showed them goofy videos, and fed them snacks.  It even included a tour of the maternity wing and nursery where they got to see a real live newborn through the window! At the end, they all got to take home a goodie bag that included a swaddling blanket, newborn hairbrush, hat, newborn diaper and a certificate. If you don’t have access to a sibling class, make the goodie bag at home and make a game out of it. Take one of your child’s favorite dolls or stuffed animals and “practice” swaddling, changing a diaper, and holding a baby.  It’s a fun way to get them involved in the process and a great refresher on the basics for you too!
Proud Liam after changing his first diaper!

Proud Liam after changing his first diaper!

We all know how important it is to wash our hands before we hold a brand new baby.  We also know it can be awkward to constantly be asking people to sanitize or wash their hands every time they walk into your house or hospital room. Cue the big brother or sister.  Make it their job to remind visitors to please wash their hands before touching the baby.  It will be one of the few times they get to tell grown-ups what to do and it actually takes some of the pressure off of you and your partner.  Let them know what an important job it is to keep germs away from the baby and it will indirectly help your child remember to wash their own hands without you having to call them out on it all the time… hopefully.
There is a lot of thought that goes into what to bring to the hospital for us moms but this could also be a great opportunity to include your child in the busy preparations. Grab a kid sized duffel bag or back pack and load it up with some practical items to keep your child busy during those inevitable waiting periods at the hospital. Packing a bag can make it feel like a real adventure! Here’s what we packed in Liams hospital bag.
– change of clothes
– new coloring book he had not seen before
– crayons
– small thomas the train puzzle
– memory game
– stuffed toy of his choosing
– packet of gummy snacks
Just because you have a constant reminder that you are going to have a baby, doesn’t mean your child should. During this transition, make sure you show plenty of interest in your child and try to stay tuned into his or her emotions. Kids can be subtle in the way they communicate their feelings but you’ll know something’s up when you see it. Help them identify feelings and let them know it’s always okay to talk about them, no matter what they are.

Going from one to two children is a big transition but I’ve learned that kids are extremely adaptive to change, even if it’s hard at first so be patient and take it one day at a time. Give yourself permission to hand your child the iPad while you take a little nap or let them stay up past their bedtime every now and then so they can “read” to the baby. Be flexible and they will follow your lead. You’ll be missing sweet moments like these before you know it.

Showering his brother with love. Photo by Mariel Leonard Garza.

Showering his brother with love. Photo by Mariel Leonard Garza.

Congratulations and best of luck!

Please share your wisdom about this special challenge and let us know what worked for you!

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