10 tips for welcoming a sibling
Say hello to baby number two
Who can blame a first-born child for stroppy behaviour when faced with a tiny bawling bundle who takes all your mummy's attention and energy when previously you were the apple of that mummy's eye and her sole entertainer. Not all older children turn into green-eyed monsters but if this is your child - or if you think she might become one - it pays to start early to pave the way for an easy transition.
As with all big changes involving preschoolers, good communication and lots of hugs and kisses will take you a long way. We offer 10 tried and tested tips to make life easier.
- Before baby's arrival, encourage your child to get involved in the impending birth: Ask her about name choices, get her to help set up the nursery, take her with you to the midwife and let her hear the baby's heartbeat. Most importantly, talk about "our baby".
- Encourage your child to express her feelings about the arrival of a sibling. It's natural for her to feel some jealousy about the attention you give your newborn so be sympathetic.
- Help her to become more independent by carrying her less, teaching her to do things for herself and facilitate some special one-on-one time for your child with Daddy and other important family members.
- Let your older child choose a present to give the new baby.
- Avoid big changes around the time of the birth, including starting preschool or kindergarten, moving house, room changes or toilet training.
- Get the new baby to "give" your toddler a doll with nappy-changing gear so she'll have something to do while you're changing baby's nappies or feeding him.
- As your due date gets closer, have a trial run of the childcare (or other) arrangements for your older sibling while you're giving birth. If she's going to Grandma's, have her spend the night there.
- While being sympathetic, establish clear boundaries and rules around the new baby and make sure your older child knows you're in charge. It's okay to feel resentful towards the new baby but it's NOT okay to hurt baby. Teach your child how to hold baby safely and gently (with your help) and allow plenty of time for your older child to give baby un-rushed cuddles.
- Have a special "hands-free" activity you can do with your older child while you're feeding baby. This could include reading or making up stories, singing, playing I Spy…
- Be prepared for anything: Stroppiness over the arrival of a new baby is very common. Try not to make your older one feel bad. It could take months or years for her to get used to the "imposter", but patience and empathy will ease the way.
Published 9 November, 2012