Your Children for a New Baby
by Barbara Freedman-De Vito
The sudden appearance of a new baby can be
rough on your other children. Daily routines
are disrupted and suddenly Mom and Dad are too
busy to pay attention to older siblings. Worst
of all, the new baby is an instant star - the
big attraction for everyone from Mom and Dad
to visiting relatives, friends, casual acquaintances
bumped into at the mall, even strangers on the
street. Everyone is talking baby talk, cooing
at the new baby, and making a fuss over the
newborn. The older kids may feel ignored and
resentful. This is especially true for the displaced
former baby of the family.
Given these natural reactions, anything that
you can do to prepare your other children for
the new arrival will ease the transition. Everything
you can do in advance to help your kids actually
look forward to the birth will make a big difference
in how they experience it. It might even help
establish a stronger brother or sister bond
with the new baby that will contribute to the
lasting closeness of a positive sibling relationship.
Here are some simple ideas that may help expectant
parents to smooth the road ahead for their other
children. Most of these tips are common knowledge
or simply common sense, but sometimes easily
forgotten amid all the excitement and activity
surrounding the birth of a new baby. A little
advance thought and preparation may go a long
way towards making the "blessed event"
a blessing for the ENTIRE family.
Let your other kids in on the secret as soon
as the pregnancy is confirmed, well before it
is obvious just by looking at mom. Even with
your youngest children, try to give them some
understanding of the changes that mom is going
through and what they mean.
Check out your local public library. It should
have books geared to all different ages that
can explain, in terms that children can understand,
the biological process of having a baby. Picture
books about baby animals may also help crystallize
the concept and relate it to something your
kids have already experienced, like watching
newborn kittens, for example.
The library or local bookstore should also
be able to guide you to works of fiction, including
picture books for preschoolers, that focus on
the arrival of a new baby in the
family and issues such as jealousy and feelings
of neglect. Quiet parent-child story reading
times can provide an ideal opportunity to prepare
young children for changes that are on the way
and to reassure them of their own importance
and irreplaceable position in the family. Discuss
issues openly and answer your kids' questions.
Encourage your children to think about life
with the new baby and how family routines will
be altered. Coax your kids to develop their
own lists of fun things they can do with a new
baby; for example, they can push the baby carriage
and help dress the baby. Help them think about
all the things that they'll be able to share
with and teach the baby as he or she grows up
and how important their role will be as a "big
brother" or "big sister".
At other times, let them focus on thinking
of ways they can help care for the baby, or
things they can do around the house to ease
the burden on mom and dad. Also, take this opportunity
to make your kids aware that babies require
gentle handling and a quiet environment. You
might even use a baby doll with your younger
children to role play baby's diaper changing
Nurture the feeling that every family member
is of equal importance and that each occupies
a special niche and has special contributions
to make. No one is being replaced by the baby
and the family cannot be whole unless EVERYONE
is a part of it. If your kids internalize this
belief, you may be able to avoid some of the
trauma and the understandable resentment toward
this little stranger who has stolen Mommy and
Daddy's hearts. The better your children are
prepared for the impending event, the better
they'll be able to cope with it emotionally.
As part of that preparation process, from time
to time plan special activities with your kids
that relate to babies. For example, they might
draw pictures of babies or collect baby photos
from magazines and create a collage. Sit down
and go through photo albums of your kids' baby
pictures and reminisce with them about their
own arrivals into the world.
Re-tell any family anecdotes surrounding their
births. Teach your children lullabies that they
can sing to the baby, plus finger games and
"peek-a-boo" games to entertain their
new brother or sister.
Arts and crafts projects can furnish a special
parent-child discussion and sharing time and
may sometimes revolve around preparations for
the new baby. Kids can make pictures to hang
in the baby's room, or create a baby-safe mobile
to hang over the baby's crib, or draw scenes
in which they imagine their lives with the new
baby - rocking the baby in their arms, and so
Involve your kids in every facet of the preparations
that you yourself are making for the baby's
arrival. Your kids can help you repaint the
nursery or paint a mural on the nursery wall,
and help you pick out baby furniture, bedding
and nursery decorations. They can choose baby
clothes that appeal to them. All of these things
can later give the children pride and a sense
of importance and inclusion in the baby's life.
When Grandma says "What a cute bib the
baby's wearing," your preschooler can say
"I picked it!"
Many parents have found in valuable to involve
their children in choosing a name for the new
baby. Keep the kids involved and actively participating
and then, as the birth becomes imminent, Dad
and the kids may even conspire to prepare some
extra, special, secret surprises for Mom and
Baby, like buying or creating a special keepsake
item or arranging a "welcome home"
In short, it's always worth the effort to do
as much as you can to get your kids involved
in and excited about the arrival of a new baby.
Include them in every step of the process.
The more they feel that it is THEIR baby, too,
the more positive their attitudes will be towards
the baby. In this way, you can minimize the
natural insecurities and feelings of jealousy
that typify the arrival of a baby brother or
The suggestions mentioned in this article can
help lay the groundwork for good sibling relationships
but, of course, you can't rest on your laurels
once the baby is born. After the baby arrives,
try to do everything you can to set aside some
special time each day that's just for you and
each of your other children. Offer them special
little treats or outings or surprises, and encourage
Grandma and Grandpa to do the same.
To reduce jealousy, give your kids pride in
the things that they CAN do that the baby can't
do, like dressing themselves or enjoying a movie
or reciting their ABCs.
Continue along the path that you started on
months earlier - reassure your kids that each
of them is just as important as the baby is,
so that they won't feel that they must compete
for your love and attention.
Good luck and oh, by the way, congratulations!
Visit Barbara Freedman-DeVito's website
for baby clothes, children's clothing and gift
items decorated with her colorful and amusing
artwork for kids. Barbara is a professional
storyteller, teacher and artist.