Preparing Your Child for a New Sibling: Informational Outline and Resource List

September 21st, 2012 by Dionna | 1 Comment
Posted in Adults, Children, Consensual Living, Eclectic Learning, natural parenting, Pregnancy and Birth, Preschoolers, Respond with Sensitivity, Toddlers

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I recently joined Patty Wipfler of Hand in Hand Parenting for a teleseminar on Preparing for Siblings. I shared information on how to make the transition easier for your child during pregnancy and immediately after birth, and Patty talked about building a healthy sibling relationship from birth and beyond.

In creating an outline to work from during my portion of the teleseminar, I compiled some fantastic information from some of my favorite parenting books and blogs. Below is my bare bones outline of information and a thorough resource list on preparing children for pregnancy, childbirth and a new sibling.

If you’d like to hear more about each of the points below, check out the mp3 of our teleseminar, which I will make available as soon as I can get it from Hand in Hand Parenting.

I. Involve Your Child in Your Pregnancy

  1. Start preparing him early. The more time your child has to prepare for a new baby, and the more you can involve him in the process, the less likely he is to resent baby’s arrival.
  2. Use pregnancy as a time to talk about reproduction in an age appropriate way. Share information according to your child’s cues; don’t inundate him with information.
  3. Actively involve your child in your pregnancy. Take him to midwife appointments, let him help pick out clothes, encourage him to sing to baby and feel baby kick.
  4. Resources for Parents:
  5. Resources for Kids:

II. Make the Necessary Changes

  1. Cultivate the relationship between your child and your partner. Celebrate that relationship, and help them find more varied ways to connect.
  2. Foster independence. Keeping in mind development and age-appropriate abilities, gently help your child discover the freedom and joy of independent play and finding ways to take care of herself.
  3. Figure out breastfeeding. Mamas who are nursing their older child will eventually need to decide whether they want to wean or tandem nurse.
  4. Figure out sleeping arrangements. If you are changing your older child’s sleeping arrangements, try to do so a few months before baby arrives so as to avoid any negative association with baby.

III. Prepare Your Child to be an Older Sibling

  1. Read books. Let children experience what it is like to have a new baby through stories.
  2. Spend time with babies. If you have any friends with babies, arrange a few play dates so that your little one can get used to what it is like to have a baby in the house.
  3. Consider enrolling in a big sibling class. Some hospitals offer classes for kids that talk about safety, what to expect with new babies, and other basics that can help prepare your child for the realities of life after baby.
  4. Play with baby dolls. Both during your pregnancy and after your baby arrives, engage in play with your child that allows him to work out his feelings and frustrations.
  5. Reinforce his important role in the family. Ask him to help you – set the table, pick up toys, put away clothes – and then genuinely thank him for his help.

IV. Help Your Child Work Through Her Feelings

  1. Let her express any negative feelings she may have. Depending on the age of your child, you may see an increase in tantrums or other “negative” behavior.
  2. Avoid painting her as the “big girl.” While you want her to be excited about being the “big sister,” you don’t want to pressure her to act like a “big girl.”
  3. Spend one on one time with her. Reassure her she is special by spending quality time with her.

big brother new baby

V. Prepare for and Involve Your Child in Childbirth

  1. Tell him his birth story. Not only can it help prepare him for his sibling’s birth, but it can also be very therapeutic for you.
  2. Involve him in birth preparations. From daily yoga to creating your birth kit or hospital bag, actively seek your child’s participation.
  3. Create a picture of what birth may look like. Help him visualize what birth may look like, and make sure to let him know that you will look and sound different.
  4. Read books. There are several books available that will help children understand what happens during childbirth.
  5. Play with birthing dolls. If you have a chunk of change that you can part with, check out the beautiful birthing, breastfeeding MamAmor Dolls.
  6. Look at pictures and watch videos. If you plan on having your child at your birth, you need to do more work to prepare him for the sights, sounds, and smells of birth.
  7. Give him a job for the birth (and have a back-up plan and person firmly in place). Because labor cannot be planned, nor can we know for sure what our child’s reactions will be (especially in a long or particularly difficult labor), have a childcare plan in place.
  8. More Resources:

VI. Make Plans for After Baby Arrives

  1. Make plans for spending time with her once baby is here. Be mindful about creating opportunities to connect after baby arrives.
  2. Make her feel useful. Once baby arrives, give her special jobs to help her feel involved.
  3. Make plans for how you will care for two children. Learn how to nurse in a carrier, make a list of activity ideas for your older child.
  4. Arrange for help in those first few weeks – meals, cleaning, laundry. Take advantage of help!
  5. Ask visitors to involve the older child. Make it a point to ask visitors to involve the older sibling by asking questions, getting her input, bringing her a gift, etc.
  6. More Resources:

VII. Take Care of Yourself

  1. Mamas might not be as excited about subsequent pregnancies, and that’s ok. Use the time to work through your feelings, and know that the connection will happen on its own time.
  2. Inform and empower yourself. Delve back into research regarding natural birth, the benefits of leaving babies intact, etc.
  3. Be aware of the signs of postpartum depression. Make a conscious effort to take care of yourself through yoga, meditation, time alone, etc.
  4. Don’t be afraid if connecting with baby feels differently than it did with your first. Many mothers have shared with me that it took them longer to fall in love with baby #2.

One Response to:
"Preparing Your Child for a New Sibling: Informational Outline and Resource List"

  1. Vidya Sury   vidyasury

    So many parents I know do not spend enough time preparing their child for the new sibling, resulting in tough times after the second baby arrives. They end up cuddling only the newborn, making the first child feel more and more lonely. And then, they are faced with dealing a whole lot of emotional issues. Gets worse when the first child is too young to articulate her feelings. This is probably a lack of education – and no one to advise the parents about this critical need to make the first child comfortable. Everyone is so excited about the new arrival, that they forget the first bundle of joy.

    This is such a valuable post with wonderful resources, Dionna (and must have been a lot of work! :-))

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