Welcoming a new baby into the home is an amazing time for families, but older siblings might feel a little insecure or apprehensive about all of the changes. If you are preparing for another set of tiny toes to join your family, there are lots of ways you can make sure that your other children feel included, appreciated, and still loved as your family grows.
- Get age appropriate books that make having a new baby in the house exciting and rewarding, and incorporate these into regular reading times.
- Take your older children to doctor appointments so that they can hear the heartbeat. Sharing that helps them feel like a part of the experience and lets them know that you are healthy and strong. It also helps to reassure them that you are not going to the doctor because the baby is making you sick, but to make sure you are both growing well, just like at their own check-ups.
- Take advantage of classes at your local hospital if available. When we had our younger children, their siblings were just old enough to attend “sibling classes” at the local hospital. These involved meeting for 2 evenings where the kids got to check out the nursery, the rooms where I would be staying, and talk about how much fun they were going to have being a big brother or sister.
- Have your older child(ren) pick out something special for the new baby. Our 3 older children searched for weeks to find the perfect stuffed animal for their baby brother, and helped pack it into my hospital bag. That Kelly Bear is the most ragged create around and has only one eye left, but is the most treasured stuffed animal in the home, 9 years later.
- Spend some time with other families who have new babies in the house. It is good to expose your children to the wiggly toes, squeaky cries, and wonders of babies before there is suddenly this new person in the home – to stay.
- Be wary of speaking baby language – where everything you say and do revolves around the new addition. You are feeling all of the excitement and wonder of this new little person in your life, but older siblings want reassurance that life in the family is status quo, and that you are still excited about life right now with them.
- Talk with older kids about their own births, and how much you love them. Then talk with them about how much they have grown and all of the things they can do now, that the baby won’t be doing. This highlights their unique place in the world as a big brother or sister.
- Have older children create a small “Welcome Baby” sign for the hospital. We just used 4” paper hearts that the kids decorated with words and pictures, then had them attach their pictures to their paper hearts. When I was in labor we taped the hearts to the inside of the hospital bassinet. When the kids came to the hospital to meet their new brother they loved to see their hearts surrounding him in the room.
- Prepare a small gift for each older sibling from the new baby. We loved the tradition of t-shirts or sweatshirts proclaiming Big Sister or Big Brother across the front. I also included something for each child that would encourage independent play – things like craft kits and sticker books.
- Continue or create a tradition that you can still share once a new baby comes home, such as sharing a cup of cocoa in the morning with your older child or saying a special prayer together at bed time.
Remember to be positive, encouraging, and reassuring, and the new addition will be a special time for the entire family!