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Birth of a Sibling – How to Prepare Your Older Child

23/10/2013

 

The birth of a baby is always an exciting and challenging time for the parents to-be.  There is the usual scramble to prepare the house for the newborn- baby cot, diapers, clothing, confinement nanny and so on and so forth. But the challenge becomes even more daunting if the parents are welcoming a second or third child because in this case they need to prepare the older sibling(s) for the life-changing event. Not only do they need to solicit help from a grandparent or friend to look after the older sibling when the mommy will be in hospital, they need to prepare the child mentally for the arrival of a new baby into the house.

 

More often than not, the older siblings’ acceptance of the younger sibling and his own behaviour in the initial months post birth depends a lot on how well the child has been prepared for this huge change in his life.

 

Before the Birth of the Sibling:

 

  • Depending on the age and mental maturity of the child counsel him by showing your scan photos. Also show the child photos of when he himself was a newborn baby. Talk to him regularly about the impending event but don’t overdo it-if the child seems more upset than elated, drop the subject.

  • Let the child feel your growing tummy and talk to the baby. If the child is old enough to understand, you can weave the impending change into stories revolving around siblings. If the older child is himself a toddler, there is not much that you can explain except that his little brother/ sister is inside mummy’s tummy and will pop out soon!

  • Emphasise that he will always be the first child and the parents will always be there for him.

  • Emphasize what will remain unchanged and be as truthful as possible about what will inevitably change.

  • Emphasize how the baby will need mom more as she will be helpless and totally dependent while the older child is now a big girl/ boy! The fact that they are being treated as grown-ups always impresses young children who will strive hard to show that they are now responsible, independent beings and not helpless babies anymore.

  • If the older sibling is still sleeping with you and his Dad in your room and you cannot have both kids in your room once the baby arrives; it is a good idea to train him to sleep in his own room or with a grandparent or another caregiver from a few months before the baby’s birth and not once the baby arrives.  If you abruptly move out the older child once the baby arrives, he is bound to feel physically displaced and will end up resentful towards the younger sibling.

  • If you want the child to be away at school or a child care center as it will be tough for you to manage the child and the baby, again it is advisable to plan ahead and start the process early instead of waiting till after the birth.

 

After the Birth of the Sibling:

 

  • Even after every kind of preparation and counselling, expect the worst in terms of reaction and behaviour from the older child as it is a confusing time for him or her.  While everyone at home is overjoyed with the birth, the older child feels neglected and anxious.

  • It is important to allow the child to express his anxiety, anger, even resentment at this obvious usurping of his position, his exclusive space and time with you. Don’t stifle the child’s emotionally strung outbursts. Even a quiet child may be prone to throwing tantrums and misbehaviour just to catch the parents’ attention.

  • Recognize and acknowledge her fears and insecurities.

  • However difficult it may be try to find some exclusive time with the older child. He will appreciate it immensely. Encourage the dad to do that too. Even if it is as short as half an hour before bedtime, it will be worth it.

  • Don’t try to force intimacy between the siblings, give them time to accept and approve of each other.

  • Emphasise what has not changed.

  • If the child has a favourite aunt or uncle, let them spend some time every day with the child. It will help the transition process.

 

It is not possible for parents to prevent every negative emotion and prepare for every eventuality. But with some planning and effort, it is possible to mitigate the fears and anxieties of the older sibling and encourage him to accept and enjoy thebirth of his younger sibling!

 

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