Friday, September 5, 2008

Getting Big Siblings Ready for Baby

When you find out you are expecting a second (or third, or fourth...) child, one of the first thoughts in your mind is trying to figure out how to prepare your current family for its new addition. In my mind, there is no time like the present to start getting your little one’s siblings ready for all of the big changes ahead.

This is a big topic I have been thinking about lately as we are one month away from making our twin boys big brothers. I have done a lot of reading, soul searching, and talking to other moms to figure out ideas on how to prepare our 2.5-year-olds for the addition to our family. Here are some common threads I have found in all of my searching for the perfect sibling preparation course.
  • Decide when to tell your children about the impending arrival - This is one area where I truly feel you need to decide what would work best for your family, depending on the age and temperament of your children. I know of parents of young children who held off telling them about the new baby for as long as possible because nine months is many lifetimes for a young child and because they were too young to understand much of what was going on. We decided to tell B & E right away. They were just past their second birthdays, so they could understand what we were telling them. Plus, we knew that they would be faced with many people asking them about becoming big brothers, and we wanted to be sure we talked to them about it first. Our new baby is due in October, so we explained to the boys that there was a baby growing in mommy’s tummy, that he needed lots of time to grow big and strong, and that he would come to live with us around Halloween.
  • Read books to help explain what is happening during the pregnancy and what will happen when the baby arrives - Everyone I spoke with had positive experiences reading books with their children to help them get ready for the baby’s arrival. There are lots of books that explain different aspects of adding a new baby to the family, from mommy and baby being at the hospital to the fun of being a big brother or sister. Some of the books most commonly recommended by other parents are I’m a Big Brother and I’m a Big Sister, both by Joanna Cole.
  • Talk to the big siblings about how they will be able to interact with the baby - Talking to your older children about things they will be able to do with the new baby helps to get them excited for their job as big brother/big sister. B & E are looking forward to playing peek-a-boo with the baby, reading him stories, helping mommy change diapers, and singing to the baby. We also talked about all of the great things that B & E will be able to teach the baby when he gets bigger, everything from showing him how to play baseball to swinging with him at the park.
  • Be realistic about what life will be like when the baby comes home - Because our new baby is just a month away, we recently began talking with B & E about how life will change when the baby comes home. We have explained that mommy will be really tired and need to rest and that the baby will need lots of attention from mommy and daddy. We also talked about how the baby will be pretty boring for a long time, not even learning to smile for a month or so. I would hate to get them excited about being big brothers and expect to be able to teach the baby all about baseball on the day he comes home from the hospital, only to be let down. Explaining all of the time that the baby will need from mommy and daddy, we also talked about all of the things that big boys can do that babies can’t - eat cookies, play at the park, go to school, etc.
  • Talk about when they were born - Looking at pictures, watching movies, and talking about what happened when older siblings were born can be a great way to introduce early life to siblings. They see how little babies are and hear about how they were welcomed into the world by friends and family.
We have tried a little bit of all of these ideas in hopes that it will help B & E prepare for the arrival of their new baby brother. I will have to report back next month to let you know if it actually worked! :)

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