Preparing your child for a new addition to the family

Bringing a newborn home the second or third time round is a little different than when you became parents for the first time. Introducing a new baby to your family ahead of your due date is important so that everyone can make the necessary adjustments and mentally prepare for the arrival of the newest addition to the family. It is especially important to prepare the older kids well and early. Here are some simple guidelines to encourage positive sibling relationships.

Tell your children early. It may be tough for your older children to adjust to sharing parental attention (and affection) with the new baby. Prepare them early by explaining why the baby will need extra attention. The best time to do this is three to four months before your baby is due.

Stay positive. Encourage your children to adopt a positive mindset by helping them see the baby as a new playmate and a source of fun. For younger children, you could also give them a gift and say it’s from the baby.

Get your children involved. Empower your older children by including them as much as possible in the process of preparing for the new baby.  For example, let them help choose clothes or toys for the baby or decorate the nursery.

Expose your children to other babies. It’s great if you have a friend or close relative who recently had a baby. Bring your children to visit so they get to see a newborn and understand how much care they need. Alternatively, borrow books from the library about introducing newborn babies to the household. The main idea here is to get your older children used to the idea of having a newborn in the house and having to accommodate a separate little person with his or her own distinct needs.

Spend some alone time with your other children after the baby’s birth. Take your child along with you to the supermarket, bring him or her for an ice-cream or go to the playground. This precious one-on-one bonding time will help make your older kids feel special. It is also good for parents to take a break from looking after the baby and to destress.

Most children will eventually make the necessary mental adjustments and form a positive sibling relationship with the new infant. However, particularly right after the birth of your new child, remember to make your older children feel they are still valued members of the family. With lots of love and reinforcement, you can encourage their positive feelings to grow towards the baby even sooner as they warm up to their new roles as older brothers and sisters.