Congratulations! Your dream of bringing another baby into the world has come true, and soon there will be an addition to your growing family. The news of a new baby on the way is a time of great jubilation and can be a whirlwind of events and emotions. Getting caught up in the excitement about the little one on the way is a good thing, but you must remember that there is another member of your family that will have a harder time understanding what the fuss is all about.
For the entirety of your child's life they have been the center of your world, and you the center of theirs. They have received all of the hugs, kisses, and attention you could afford them. Your child has gotten used to the status quo, established a routine, and has found his/her place in your family unit. It is now your job to help them understand that a new member is going to be added to the family, and your child will soon be a big brother/ sister.
1) Study up – As a parent you should take the time study about your situation. Get your hands on as many books about children and the introduction of siblings as you can. You don't have to treat every word as the law, but pick and choose what works for you. Remember that not all families are even remotely the same, so find information that is pertinent to you and your family.
2) Communicate with your child – Communication is the key to success in every relationship, and it is no different for you and your child. Remember that they are still learning and do not have nearly as much understanding as you do, however don't underestimate their situational awareness. Even very young children will pick up on the excited state of you and your extended family, and you must recognize their need to be included. Take the time to talk to them about the things you are doing and how they can help. (As a side note, your timing about when to start to talk about the arrival of a new little brother or sister with your child is critical. It is better to wait for a later point in your pregnancy before you start to discuss the new family member with your child, just in case there are any complications in your pregnancy.)
3) Baby Bump – Once the appearance of the "Baby Bump" is obvious, you can use it to your advantage. Think of it as a tool, a talking point if you will, to help your child become interested in the arrival of a new little brother or sister. Children are hands on, so let your little one rub your tummy as you talk to them about the arrival of their little brother or sister.
4) Family observation – During your day you will be presented with multiple opportunities to use the environment around you, and the observation of other families to help communicate with your child. Take advantage of observed positive sibling interaction to show your little one what it's going to be like when they have a sibling. This observation and explanation will help them understand what will be happening in their future and alleviate some of the anxiety they may have.
5) Off to the Delivery Man – It is important to help your child understand why you have to go to the doctor when your delivery date is getting close. Explain to them that the doctors are going to help mommy and daddy bring their little brother/sister into the world, and that it is a good thing. Make sure you keep a positive aura around the hospital/doctors, so when the time does come that you must go to the hospital (or be taken away, in their eyes) that there is a positive interpretation of the event in your child's mind.
6) Let them help – One easy way to get your child involved and interested about his/her new sibling is to get their opinion. Don't think that you can't flatter your child by asking their opinion about clothing, wall color in the baby's room, or stroller style; you can! By involving them you are encouraging a positive response from your child, and you will also see them get excited about showing the new baby all the cool stuff they helped with. Make sure that your child knows that their opinion counts.
7) Talk with friends and family – Take the time to sit down with friends and family members that may be coming by at numerous times before and after the arrival of your new baby. Make sure they understand that while it's ok to be overly excited about the new family member, they also need to go out of their way to acknowledge your child. Taking the time to say hello and including your child in the family interaction can be a critical step in helping your child accept the new baby.
8) Talk for baby – Once your baby has arrived and you have settled in back at home, you can help to start the relationship between your child and your new arrival by talking for your baby. Help your child communicate with their little brother/sister; this will help strengthen their bond.
9) Special time – Set aside special time for each child, acknowledging that your child was here first and that their special time is a priority. Remember you are going to be spending a lot of your time tending to the day to day needs of your infant, so by default you are going to be spending more time with the little one. Setting up a specific special time, and acknowledging that your child's special time came first, will help your child not feel like he/she is playing second fiddle. Be careful not to slip into a first come first serve situation with your child. There is a fine line between acknowledging that he/she was here first and that they are more important. You must make it a point to recognize when your child is becoming too dominant or showing an "I, I, me, me" mentality. Your child must understand that he/she is part of a family, and as such, is no better or more important than any other member of that family.
10) Prep for the bad times – You know there will probably be times when your child is going to be unacceptable of their new sibling. There are going to be times when the new baby might wake you child up in the middle of the night crying. These are things that are going to happen, and you must do your best to prepare for them. Make a list of anything you think may come up that might be an issue for your child. No one knows your family and your child like you do, so try and head off any potential problems before they arise. There are many things that you cannot prevent, but being prepared and having a game plan on dealing with these things will help you get through them.
Introducing your new baby to their big brother or sister is an exciting time, both for you and for your children. There are no set rules about how to correctly introduce your new family members to each other. It is best for you to use your knowledge of your family and your past experiences to make a game plan that will work for you. Take each day and use it as a way to make your family closer, experience things together, and your family bond will be stronger than ever.