How to prepare your kids for a new baby
Mums share their tips on how they introduced a new baby to their kids.
Your children can have a range of emotions when they learn about their new brother or sister. They could be excited, confused or jealous.
Thankfully, there are many things you can do to prepare a child for the arrival of their baby brother or sister and reassure them that you love them as much as ever.
If your child or children are old enough to talk, explain the pregnancy and what it means with them.
Child psychologist Brooklyn Storme suggests that during your pregnancy you let your child touch your belly and ask you questions. “Get them involved in preparations for baby’s arrival as this can help them feel less anxious,” she says.
Preparing kids to be a big brother or sister
When Nicola Conville McDonald was expecting a sibling to Lucy, now 7, she spent time preparing her daughter for the new arrival.
“We read books about being a big sister. I also let her choose a gift for the baby, and I bought one from the new baby (her brother Nathan, now 4), to her. We ‘exchanged’ the gifts the first time they met, in hospital.”
Mother-of-three Teresa Wuersching also read books that tackle sibling rivalry to help her children prepare for the new baby in the family.
“We read a book called There’s an Ouch in my Pouch [a children’s book about independence and siblings, by Jeanne Willis],” she says.
Movies are also helpful, particularly ones which have a big brother or sister as the starring role, says Storme.
“We have a 2-year-old boy and a 9-week old girl,” says Isabel Rene. “There’s a TV show called Daniel Tiger about a tiger who gets a little sister. We watched that several times, and read books, such as There’s a House Inside My Mummy, by Giles Andreae. So far my son is very sweet with his little sister but is still taking some time to adjust.”
Bringing your baby home
“When your baby comes home from the hospital, or is ready to be introduced to the whole family, your child will likely want to help and it’s a great idea to encourage this,” says Storme. “The transition can be tough but helping them settle into their new role can reap rewards.”
Mother-of-two Andrea Wilkin encouraged her daughter to copy her when looking after the newborn. “I got Naia a baby and bath set, and so she bathed her ‘baby’, when I bathed her brother Reef. She loved it and they both played together with it when Reef was old enough.”
However, sometimes even well laid plans can go awry. The early arrival of her second daughter meant that the ideas Karen Packham had to involve her daughter in the upcoming arrival of her sister went by the wayside.
“We had planned to buy our older daughter a watch as a present, so that she could be the grown-up sister and my helper. But baby number 2 arrived 5 weeks earlier, before we even had a chance to buy it.”
Packham agrees that it’s important to begin preparing siblings for the new arrival as early as possible. “In hindsight, I wish I’d made more of the fact that she was going to be very special to me in helping to raise her sister. I also wish I’d handed the baby over to my husband regularly, while I went off and did things just with her.”
The transition period for older siblings can be difficult but is usually for a short time. “My daughters now get on very well,” says Packham. “Part of that is being very aware of any possible conflicts and taking time to be aware, listen and talk to the older one, no matter how busy you think you are.”
Signs of sibling rivalry
Sibling rivalry is more common when children are the same gender and born closely together.
Some children, no matter how much you prepare them, will still display signs of the green-eyed monster.
“Despite ensuring Molly, 2, had equal attention from us, family and visitors, when Tilly finally arrived, she was not impressed,” says Lorraine Gibson. “Molly frequently enquired as to when Tilly was 'going back'! The good news? Once Tilly began to 'talk' it was fine. They’re now 11 and 13 and get on brilliantly – most of the time.”
“Sibling rivalry is often for the attention and affection provided by a parent,” says Storme. “A sibling will often show their jealousy through behaviours such as fighting, pushing, hitting and shouting.”
Other signs could include avoidance of family activities or wanting to stay in their room.
“Talk with them openly and without judgement, in a safe place, about why they did a certain thing. The key to mitigating this behaviour will often be in understanding the reason for it. [Try to] make time each day for your child to spend with you one-on-one even if it’s only for 15 minutes to help them feel connected,” says Storme.
If you’re concerned about how your children are getting along, speak with your GP, who may suggest counselling or other support for your children.
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