5 Tips to Prepare Big Sibs for Baby’s Arrival
The arrival of a new baby is a special occasion for the entire family and that includes older siblings! By helping them prepare and participate, you can create a positive and smooth transition for your family.
Tip #1: Listen, Then Talk
As you talk about the arrival of a new baby, allow your child to ask lots of questions, then answer them honestly. As you talk, listen to your child carefully. Is she concerned about her role in the family? Does she have fears or worries? Be sure to reassure her and continue your already established loving habits and traditions. If she is not worried, don’t plant seeds! And, be sure to answer what she is actually asking, not what you may think she is asking. For instance, when my then-3-year-old asked, “Where do babies come from?” she was truly interested in finding out in which hospital and room I would deliver baby sister.
As you start to prepare, include your child in the conversation. He can help select decorations for a nursery, an outfit for the hospital and, in some families, siblings are even included in the naming process!
Another great tip is to sign up for big brother/big sister classes at your hospital or birthing center. These classes help siblings learn how to treat the new baby with TLC, help mom, and they reassure kids that other children go through the same thoughts and experiences they are encountering.
Tip #2: Train Them to be Independent and Helpful in Positive Ways
Start to teach independence and encourage “grown up” behavior as your helper and part of the family team. Begin to give future big sibs small responsibilities throughout your pregnancy to help prepare for the arrival of the baby.
Begin to include them in chores: This builds esteem, and knowing that they are needed and integral to the family’s success (you are relying on their help, and that makes them feel good!) and that they’re learning more, they become truly more helpful!
- Purchase a handheld broom and dustpan and let them sweep up crumbs from the kitchen floor.
- Teach them to put away their own folded laundry as they are able. Toddlers can put folded socks in a sock drawer; preschoolers are able to put away small stacks of folded clothes.
- Train children to put away one item before getting out another to keep messes in check.
- Enlist help in setting the table or preparing meals. Young children can help tear lettuce to make a salad, stir pasta salads and line muffin tins. Older children can be trusted with more responsibilities.
- Teach them to make their beds. Be sure to make the process as simple as possible (minimal pillows, stuffed toys, etc.).
Teach independence: Are you doing things for your child that he can do for himself, simply because you want to be sure it is “done right” or quickly? It’s worth the investment of time to teach him to be independent where he can.
- Teach children to choose outfits appropriate for weather and occasion and dress themselves. Start with laying outfits out the night before.
- If you permit snacks throughout the day, create a spot in the pantry with accessible healthy snacks and keep filled sippy cups on a bottom shelf in the fridge so they can help themselves if you are occupied caring for baby.
- Allow for free time when they can play as they please and be imaginative.
- Plan to include them in tasks to help with the baby: retrieving diapers and wipes, selecting outfits, picking up toys, etc.
Reward good behavior: Encourage responsibility and acknowledge your child’s contribution.
- Reinforce value both verbally and with quality time. For instance, “Thanks so much for helping make salad tonight. You freed me up to spend time playing this evening. Would you like to play Uno after dinner?”
- Consider a reward chart on the fridge to mark completed tasks and an end-of-the-week reward.
Tip #3: Read Good Books About Big Siblings
You’ll find a variety of big sibling books available for sale and at local libraries. Be sure to read reviews and descriptions in advance—are the books addressing your child’s needs? Our favorite big sibling titles were:
- I’m a Big Sister/Brother by Joanna Cole. This book is a great introduction for young children expecting a new baby sibling. Reassuring older siblings that they are special, loved, important members of the family and that the new baby will bring wonderful new changes to the family, this is a great bedtime staple in anticipation of a new baby.
- How to Be a Baby by Me, the Big Sister by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sue Heap. This is a humorous picture book to enjoy. Big Sister teaches Baby all of the important things in life because Baby does not know the words to songs, how to walk, how to dance or enjoy all of the other great aspects of life relished by the older sister.
Tip #4: Take Your Child on a Date… and Other Mommy and Me Habits
Spending one-on-one time with each child is one of the most treasured gifts any parent has to offer! Story time before bed, cuddles, crafts and games are all great ways to bond, and these regular rituals should continue after Baby arrives. However, most families find that the first few months are a big adjustment, and finding one-on-one time can be hard for sleep-deprived parents. Before the baby arrives, set aside a few opportunities to take your child out for a special one-on-one date with each parent.
- Go out for ice cream.
- Play at the park.
- Visit a favorite attraction: Kansas City Zoo, miniature golf at Cool Crest, Little Monkey Bizness and many, many more at www.KCGoingPlaces.com.
- Find more in this article Take Your Child on a Date
Tip #5: Make Memories on the Big Day
Include big sibling in the big day and make plans to make it special for them!
- Order sibling t-shirts from www.CafePress.com (you’ll find a variety of designs and styles).
- Have a gift from Mom and Dad ready to give to older children when they arrive at the hospital. Our favorite idea was a travel folding tray with activity books and fun crayons to use at the hospital and at Grandma’s house.
- Before the big day, take your child shopping to select a gift for the baby from the big sibling. This may be a favorite toy, blanket or outfit.
- Plan fun things for them to enjoy while you’re at the hospital. Purchase gift cards for ice cream or a favorite attraction that they may enjoy with grandparents or aunts and uncles.
- Take lots of photos with the whole family!
Kristina Light is thankful for her daughters who make great big, little and middle sisters!