How to prepare your older child for baby's arrival

Hopefully, your child will welcome the baby into the family and shower her with love, just like you do.
Hopefully, your child will welcome the baby into the family and shower her with love, just like you do.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

NEW YORK • Parents often worry over how the first child is going to feel about getting a baby brother or sister.

"Different families will take different approaches and that's fine," said Rebecca Schiller, author of Your No Guilt Pregnancy Plan.

"You know your child best. However you prepare her, the reality is bound to be difficult at times as she learns to share your time, love, lap, toys and bedrooms.

"But it's okay if she finds it hard to adjust."

Schiller said you should talk to your child about becoming a sibling in an "age-appropriate way".

She suggests getting her to help you make a scrapbook about the birth and baby years, and asking her to be part of your planning for the months ahead.

Here are some tips from parents:

Books and TV shows: Some parents found it helpful to share books about becoming a sibling with their older kids in the weeks leading up to the birth.

Some books focus on the physical aspects of the baby growing in their mum's body, while others deal with what life is likely to be like once the baby arrives. Titles include Sophie And The New Baby, There's A House Inside My Mummy and The New Small Person.

Other parents said it was helpful that some of their child's favourite television shows had episodes that focused on introducing new siblings, including Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger's Neighbourhood.

Watching one of these shows together could present an opportunity to start a conversation about the impending arrival.

Buy her a doll: Consider giving your soon-to-be-sibling a lifelike doll. It will give her a "baby" of her own to hold instead of trying to pick up the sibling.

Said author Clara Wiggins: "We didn't give my older daughter a new doll. But she did mimic me with one of her existing ones and was soon feeding her, potty-training her and pushing her around in a toy buggy."

Make her your official photographer: Depending on how old the child is, she may enjoy having a camera and documenting the arrival of the baby.

Get her a child-friendly and sturdy camera, or you could let her use your phone-camera.

It will be fun to browse the results during a late-night feeding session with the new baby.

Come bearing gifts: Many parents suggest getting a present for the older child. She may feel left out when friends and relatives come to visit with gifts for the baby, but nothing for the older sibling. Ask people to bring a small gift for your older child too.

Be aware of confused feelings: It is natural for your first-born to be jealous of the new baby. Plan ahead to help her cope and feel special.

When she comes to see you, make sure you are not holding the baby. You need to have your arms free to give her a big hug. The sight of you carrying the new sibling may make her feel she is being replaced in your affections.

Make transitions ahead of time: Even if you do not plan to put your new baby straight into the crib, consider moving your older child to a bed (if she is ready) a few weeks before the baby comes home.

This will help prevent the child from associating the move with the baby's arrival and feeling like she is being pushed out.

No matter how much you prepare your child, she is not going to understand what is coming until the baby arrives.

Hopefully, she will welcome the baby into the family and shower her with love, just like you do.

But do not worry if she does not - sibling rivalry is natural and it is one of the ways children learn to navigate relationships later in life.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 16, 2018, with the headline 'How to prepare your older child for baby's arrival'. Print Edition | Subscribe