5 Ways to prepare your child for a sibling
Posted on 5 February 2019
Encourage healthy bonds and ease the transition from only child to older child with these intelligent ideas.
As soon as you begin telling family and friends that you are expecting another baby, you should prepare your child for their arrival. Even if your child is too young to understand the news, it’s important they don’t hear the news from another source. While older children are typically excited to welcome a new member of the family, little ones might be more confused and upset.
- While you obviously want to build excitement about the imminent arrival, experts caution that you shouldn’t place too much emphasis on the idea that your newborn will be an instant playmate for your youngster. “Babies can be both quiet and demanding,” says Durban clinical psychologist Dr Sherona Rawat. “To prepare your firstborn for the necessary shifts that will occur, be realistic about what this arrival will mean. Show him pictures of himself as a baby and explain how excited you were when he was born – and how he slept a lot, cried a lot and needed lots of attention.”
- Depending on his age, involve your child appropriately in the preparations. Does he have a preferred name? What colour does he think you should paint the baby’s room? “Allow him to unwrap and play with any toys or clothes that friends send,” Dr Rawat suggests. “This will help him feel included – even if he assumes all the gifts are for him!” Another good idea is to give him a present from his unborn sibling.
- Where possible, limit any changes to your child’s routine. If he needs to move rooms or beds, try to do this well before the baby’s arrival so he doesn’t feel displaced. Bedtimes are often shortened with the arrival of a newcomer, so condense them ahead of time. “If possible, get your partner to play a bigger role in your firstborn’s bedtime and morning routine, says Dr Rawat. “One-on-one time with a parent at this stage plays a big role in reducing sibling rivalry.”
- Arrange for a family member or friend to bring your child to the hospital to meet his new sibling. If he’s old enough, allow him to hold the baby and encourage him to notice particular features. Comments like: “Look how small your baby sister’s nose is. I remember when you were born and your nose was just as tiny!” will help him realise his new sibling isn’t a threat.
If you’re breastfeeding your newborn, don’t banish your child from the room. Rather explain what you’re doing and answer any questions your child might have with age-appropriate answers. As Dr Rawat suggests, “Be sure to schedule some time alone each day with your toddler, even if it’s just a 15-minute story while your baby is in someone else’s arms.”