Monday, April 25, 2005

Welcoming Baby Brother or Sister

The birth of a newborn is a joyous occasion for almost everyone. Relatives and friends come bearing gifts and food. Lavish attention is given to the nearly oblivious little one. Everyone, including complete strangers, wants to see the new baby, hold him, and ooh and aah over him adoringly. Is it any wonder that an older brother and/or sister might feel a little left out? After all, maybe he or she was the baby of the family before this new infant came along. While you shouldn't downplay the birth of your new baby, you should be sensitive to the needs of your other children, regardless of their ages.

If you have small children at home already, you will need to decide how soon to tell them about the new baby before she is born. If your child is just a toddler, she really won't have much concept of time, so it would probably be best if you wait until you are beginning to show signs of your pregnancy before you inform her that she will soon be a big sister.

If your child is older, however, you and your partner may decide to share the news as soon as you find out. Some people prefer to wait until they have surpassed the first three months' mark, while others are eager to share their excitement with their other children. It really is up to you.

No matter how old your other children are, though, you should keep in mind that their will be a period of adjustment both during your pregnancy and after the birth of your baby. As your pregnancy progresses, you may find that you don't have the energy or the physical strength to do some of the activities that you use to do with your other children. While you should explain to your child that you may not have the stamina that you did have, you should also be careful not to make your son or daughter resentful of the impending arrival of a new baby.

Even before your baby is born, you can find ways to help your other child or children begin to look forward to the big event. If someone is going to give you a baby shower, you might want to include your other child. If she is still very young, it may be hard for her to understand why the baby is receiving so many gifts. While she may enjoy opening the gifts for you, you can wrap a few gifts for her, also. You can even use these gifts to help her become more accustomed to the idea of a baby brother or sister.

Why not give her a new baby doll? You could also let her unwrap some small diapers, a play bottle, pacifier, and a few doll clothes. When you are feeding, diapering, and dressing your newborn, you can encourage your older child to do the same with her baby. You could also have a few small gifts for your child that focus on his role as big brother. There are cute hats, t-shirts, and other articles of clothing that have logos such as “I'm a Big Brother!” Give him his own burp cloth, and tell him that he can use it when he is taking care of the baby. The key is to help him look forward to his new role as big brother.

Once the new baby is born, you'll probably have lots of visitors bearing even more gifts. Now, more than ever, it is important that you make your other child feel cherished and loved. When someone comes along with a gift for the new infant, pull out a small gift that you purchased earlier for your other child. The gifts don't have to be expensive. Items such as books, puzzles, stuffed animals, bubbles, crayons, and coloring books make great presents.

Even though the new baby will consume a good deal of your days and nights, you should still carve out time for your other child. If this seems difficult to do, enlist the help of your spouse, friend, or relative. He or she can take care of the newborn while you spend some one-on-one quality time with your other child. You don't want her to have any resentment towards the new baby.

Smaller children aren't the only ones who have to adjust when a new baby comes along. School-aged children, pre-teens, and adolescents will all have to adjust in some way to this new member of the family. You should try to keep your daily schedule as normal as possible. If you typically helped your child with his homework in the afternoon, find a way to continue to do this. Don't use the newborn as an excuse not to do something because this may create tension and resentment in your other child.

The biggest worry your teenager will probably have will be how this new little person will affect her own life. Try to stay as active and involved as you normally do with your teen. Obviously, you may have to slow down for a few weeks, but newborns are surprisingly resilient. If your baby is healthy, plan on taking him with you to ballgames, recitals, performances, school concerts, open houses, school meetings, etc. The more you take him out around other people, the more accustomed he'll become to going from one event to another. If you can attend as many of your child's activities as possible, she will see that she is still important in your eyes, and she will realize that her life really hasn't changed that dramatically.

Finally, encourage your teen to take more responsibility with the new baby. While you shouldn't force her to do things that make her uncomfortable, such as changing a dirty diaper, you can help her to feel more responsible and capable by giving her small jobs. Ask her to hold the baby while you empty the dishwasher or clean the house. Show her how to sit in the rocker and rock the baby to sleep. As he continues to grow, encourage her to feed and play with him. Eventually, you will see evidence of a deeper bond that continues to grow between your two children. The birth of a new baby doesn't have to be that life changing, but it can open up a whole new world of blessings!

By Susie McGee

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