The arrival of a new baby can cause a lot of sudden upheavals in a household. This is true especially for the already existing children who are not quite aware of what is going on. Some older children adjust quickly to the thought of a new sibling, others not so well (sibling rivalry starts as early as when the new baby comes home from the hospital). Before baby is born, parents typically are busy, preparing for the arrival of baby and after the little one arrives, the family takes on a new dimension with just meeting the basic needs of the new little one. It is not uncommon for children to react negatively when a new sibling arrives because of the lesser amount of attention that is paid to them.
Pregnancy and childbirth adds a lot of sudden change for the older siblings. They may feel upset because they feel that they may have gotten the spotlight stolen from them and some children react to this upheaval by acting out. Though it may not change the reaction of your child or children, there are a few ideas you might want to consider to make this time of change a bit easier to swallow:
While you are pregnant, you will want to sit down with your child and explain to them what is happening. There is no right or wrong time when talking to them. There is also no right or wrong way to do it. You know your child best, you can start by doing some research and deciding on the best way to tell them. Go to the library, there are several books you might use that are story books which will help in telling your child. But make sure it is age appropriate. For example, preschoolers have no sense of time, so telling them in nine months they will be getting new little brother or sister will not mean much to them (and they will ask you on a daily basis when is it coming?!) Also, you will want to mention to them that (although they might think so) that this new baby will not be an instant playmate. Be realistic, tell your child that all it will do is cry and sleep most of the time.
It is important to involve your child even during pregnancy. Allow them to help with the decisions on how to decorate the room for the baby, enable them purchase new things for the baby, let them pick out one special stuffed animal, let them pick out some clothes. Share pictures of your ultrasound with them. Give them a new baby doll and show them how to feed it with a bottle and assist them in diapering it. Some hospitals have sibling classes that you can send your child to with a teddy bear (they learn how to diaper and take care of their teddy). You could purchase a button or a t shirt that says big sister or big brother on it. Spend some time talking to your child about when they were a baby. Look at your photo albums. Let your child assist you in putting together a new photo album for their new sibling. You could have them draw some pictures to put into it and help decorate the book.
As the due date arrives closer, try to maintain the routine of your child by making it as normal as possible. If you are planning any major events such as potty training or moving your child out of the crib, you may want accomplish them well before your due date or wait a while till after things have settled down some after the baby has been at home for awhile.
Once the new baby has come home, you will want to involve the older siblings as much as possible in the care of the baby so they do not feel left out. Even smaller children can help in the day to day activities such as getting diapers for you; they can help push the buggy; can help you dress and bathe the baby, anything that provides interaction between the baby and the sibling. Keep in mind however, that allowing young children to help will probably take a little longer because of them helping. If your child shows no interest what so ever, do not force it. It may take some time for the child to get used to the idea of having a sibling.
You will need to remember to have some one on one time with your older child. Spend some time together doing a favorite activity while the baby is sleeping. Try to put aside some time during which the older child can spend some undivided time with one parent; this shows the older child that he too, is special to mom and dad, just as special as the new baby. In doing this, it may help lessen the feelings of anger or resentment that may be surfacing in regards to the new baby.
Take time to listen to your older child and acknowledge how she or he feels about the new baby even if the child is angry. Never deny or discount the feelings of your older child toward the new sibling. Also you will need to point out that while anger is ok; hurting the baby and general misbehavior is not. Do not bend the rules in the disciplining of your child. You will want to point out to other extended family members not to forget the older child. If visitors have brought something for the baby and have forget to bring something for the older child, you might want to have a few gifts on hand for the older sibling so that the child does not feel left out or neglected. You can also point out to the older child that there are benefits of being older. The child can pick what to wear, what to eat, if they want to go to the park or not, etc and that the baby cannot do this.
Adding another child to your family can be both a beautiful time and a busy time for all involved. Do not forget to include the existing siblings and everything should go smooth.