You might be bursting with excitement over the impending arrival of your next child, but your older children may not be so enthusiastic. Don't worry; sibling envy is quite common, even before your new little one is born. After all, the new baby is getting a lot of attention before even making its entrance. Preparing your children for the arrival of this new bundle of joy makes the transition easier for everyone.
1 Decide when it's appropriate to tell your children. If you have a toddler, he might not understand about the new baby until your belly grows to the point where he can't sit on your lap anymore. Preschoolers might understand a bit sooner, but it won't seem real to them until you are at least "showing."
2 Gather your children together. Eliminate any distractions, such as the television, computer or toys, so that they are able to give you their full attention. Tell the children that your family will be welcoming a new baby soon. Toddlers can't grasp the concept of months, so tell them that the baby will arrive when it's cold outside, when the flowers are blooming, when it's hot enough to go swimming or when the leaves begin to fall from the trees.
3 Reassure your children that they are still important members of the family. When a new baby is on the way, many children worry that that parents will love the new baby more. Spend one-on-one time with each of your kids so they still feel like they're an important part of your life. Refer to your children as "big sister" or "big brother" to elevate their new role in the family as something to be celebrated.
4 Make the news more tangible. Show your children your ultrasound pictures and point out the baby's visible body parts. Show your children their own baby pictures and talk about what newborn babies do, such as sleep a lot and cry sometimes. Read picture books about kids who have a new sibling. Try "Hi, New Baby!" by Robie H. Harris. A journal type of book may be of interest to some children. "There's a Brand-New Baby at Our House and...I'm the Big Sister!" by Susan Ligon is a fill-in-and-keep book that you and your older children can complete together. It leaves room for your child to draw pictures and for you to fill in the blanks with your child's answers about his new brother or sister.
5 Let your children participate in planning for the new baby. Have them pick out a few new outfits or new bedding for the crib. Ask them to help you pack your hospital bag with items for the new baby. Write down your children's suggestions for baby names, too. Make your children feel important, and they'll be more likely to get excited about the new arrival.
6 Answer your children's questions honestly, but age-appropriately. For example, toddlers and preschoolers shouldn't hear a graphic explanation of where babies come from, but telling them the baby grows in your uterus is an acceptable way to answer that much-dreaded question.
7 Bake a special treat to announce the gender of the new baby as an entertaining way to build excitement for the big change. Mix up a batch of yellow cupcakes. If you're having a boy, tint the batter with blue food coloring. If you're having a girl, dye the batter with pink food coloring. If you want your children to be surprised when they bite into their treat, frost the cupcakes with white frosting, completely covering the edges so the color of the cupcake doesn't peek through. Or you could simply choose blue or pink icing to announce the gender and simultaneously have a "new baby" party with your kids. They'll appreciate the effort and the sweet treats.
- Hi, New Baby!; Robie H. Harris
- There's a Brand-New Baby at Our House and...I'm the Big Sister!; Susan Ligon
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images