How do you prepare your child for the arrival of a new baby?
It's much like preparing your dog for a new puppy. Kidding, but not totally. It's really about easing into it.
When you are dealing with a child it's important to ease them into the new addition soon and slow. This goes for only children who will suddenly be sharing moms attention and affection or for other siblings who are suddenly losing their standing in the family hierarchy.
Sometimes I joke and say that kids have this natural survival instinct. It's what causes them to know the exact moment when mom and dad could be making a new addition and this explains why that is exactly when they will knock on the door or crawl into bed with you.
They have a sixth sense to let them know that they are moving down the chain.
Ok, so I'm just joking though it could be true (at least in my house) and it explains why hubby and I NEVER GET ALONE TIME.
But all kidding and sarcasm aside... here are some things to do to prepare your child(ren) for a new baby.
1. Tell them about it early. The sooner you tell them the longer they have to adjust. Have them ask any questions, answer them as honestly as their age permits.
2. Stress that they will always be special and find ways to make them feel that way. Give them a unique nickname or find a special story or rhyme you reserve just for them.
3.Let them share the news! Even if they aren't excited about a baby brother kids love to share news. It makes them feel big. So let them tell the grandparents, their friends, etc.
4. Allow them to go to the doctor with you... especially for the sonogram.
5. Let them pick out juniors name. You don't want to give them full control or your baby may be named Optimus Prime... but you could give them the names you are deciding between and let them have the final decision. This will really help foster a special bond.
6. Let them pick out things for the baby. A special blanket, their going home outfit or a stuffed animal will help them feel included.
7. Include them at the hospital. You may not want them in the room while you push (after all it's scary and who knows what colorful words they may hear). As soon as baby is out and able let your other children in first and be the very first to meet the new baby and hold them. This is a good time to give them their special little gift they picked out.
8. Give your older kids a gift. You could get really creative and have them make a handmade frame in advance and then once baby is born put the first photo of them holding her into it. Or get them a special toy. It's easy for big kids to get jealous when the baby gets so much attention and gifts so be sure to not leave them out.
9. Be honest. Explain that when a new baby comes people are very excited to see the baby and sometimes it may seem like that is all they care about but that is not the case. And slowly things will become more balanced . If they ever feel they are not getting enough attention they can just say so. But you have to make a point to listen and look for signs if they don't mention it and of course make a point to give older kids all the love and attention they need... even if it's on just 2 hours of sleep thanks to that new bundle of joy.
10. Be ready to seek help. If your child starts to revert to younger behavior (tantrums, potty accidents, or won't do tasks they normally do like feeding themselves), acts out or becomes a bit rough with the new baby (pinches, tosses toys at or seems at all aggressive) and talking to them isn't working do not be afraid to ask for help. You can find a friend, parent, online connections like www.tampabaymomsgroup.com (sorry, shameless self promotion) and of course your pediatrician.
But if the kid just doesn't adjust to the new baby put them in a dog crate until they decide to play nice. And reward them with treats when they do good. And never underestimate the power of a good, behind the ear scratch. (:P)
Oh, and congratulations and good luck with your new addition!