You’ve decided to grow your family and have a bub on the way. Now you just need to tell your child they’re going to be a big brother or sister. In this article I give you some tips on ways to navigate the introduction of a new sibling.
READ THEM SIBLING-RELATED PICTURE BOOKS
A picture speaks a thousand words and one of the best ways to introduce young children to the concept of siblinghood is to show them a picture book that illustrates the impending changes that are coming to the family dynamic. There are some great books that address the pregnancy process and introduce the idea of being a big brother or sister. If you already know the baby’s sex, there's also some fantastic gender-specific books that place a little girl or boy as the baby character. The most important thing is getting your firstborn to relate to the idea of the family growing. The concept will probably be abstract until bub actually arrives, but the sooner they wrap their heads around it, the easier the transition will be.
PAINT A POSITIVE PICTURE (BUT DON’T OVERSELL IT!)
The best way to demystify the sibling concept is to talk about to your eldest child honestly about the changes that are coming. If your child hates the idea of sharing you or feels anxious about things changing, reassure them that a new addition to the family is a positive thing, but may take some getting used to. It’s important to emphasise that you will love them just as much as you always have and that they don’t have to worry about the baby stealing your heart. That said, it’s also vital to explain that sometimes they will need to be patient, while you learn to juggle life with 2 (or more). Sell the baby to them as a new friend (for life!) that they can help care for, while also explaining that babies are a lot of work and need constant care until they’re a bit bigger. Expectation management is key. You want your child to look forward to the baby’s birth, while also being realistic about some of the growing pains you may face as a family.
BUY THEM A DOLL
Role play is a great way to engage kids in the pregnancy and newborn process. Depending on the age of your eldest child, buying them a doll and mini baby bottle can be a simple way to introduce the idea of becoming an older sibling. Not only does it give them a baby to play with leading up to the birth, but it means they can care for their own baby after bub is born. This can be especially helpful during feeding time, when sibling jealousy tends to rear its head. They can feed their baby alongside you and change its diaper or give it a bath. Perhaps even buy them a little stroller to push their baby around in and some toy baby clothes so they can change its outfit. The idea is for them to feel empowered as they step into this new, senior role. And yes, boys can play with dolls too.
GET THEM INVOLVED IN PREPARATIONS
If you want to cultivate a connection between your belly bump and your firstborn, getting them involved in practical preparations is an effective way to engage them. This can include everything from helping choose a name, decorating the nursery together, selecting baby clothes or letting them see their little brother or sister on the screen during your sonogram – all the while reminding them that you once did all this for them. Show them pictures of themselves as a baby so they can see they were once a tiny newborn too. If your kids are close in age, it can be a good time to transition them from a cot or toddler bed to a ‘big kid bed’, to emphasise their place in the family hierarchy. The goal is to make them feel excited about what’s coming without feeling intimidated.
GIVE THEM QUALITY TIME
Older siblings often feel threatened by the idea of a new baby because they worry that you won’t have as much time for them. Sadly this is true. You won’t. The reality of having multiple children is that there’s only one Mama; and sometimes she has to prioritize the baby’s needs first. But that doesn’t mean the time you spend with your eldest should become diluted. In fact, time with your firstborn becomes even more precious after you have more than one child. They key is to balance the family’s schedule so you have some quality one-on-one time. Whether it’s a babyccino date at your local café or playtime in the park, filling your child’s ‘love cup’ will reassure them that they still have your love and attention.