Are you excitedly looking forward to that time when your child will meet their new baby sibling for the first time?
Here are five ways to help ease the transition of being promoted to big brother or sister and to make the first meeting a memorable one:
- Lots of preparation ahead – Young children like predictability and don’t handle surprises too well. Starting from when you are a few weeks away from giving birth, talk to your child about what is going to happen when it’s time for baby to come. Let them know who will take you to the hospital, whether they will come along, or if not, who they will be staying with during the time – is it with your partner or someone else?
- Story telling – Stories are a great way to connect with young children and tune into what they’re feeling. In the weeks leading up to birth, weave in stories into conversations whenever you get a chance. You can switch between made up stories about new babies and their siblings and those involving your own child. The storylines can be really simple but add in as many details as you want. As you go along, be sure to pause and ask questions “So what happened next?” or “How did that make the child feel?” This is a great way to get your child to talk about what they’re going through and what their fears and concerns are.
- Plan an activity for the time you are at the hospital – If your child will be at home with your partner or a grandparent or another family member, give them the important task of picking a special activity to do during the time. It could be as simple as an afternoon of swimming with grandpa or a more elaborate plan. This will give them something special to look forward to while mummy goes to the hospital to do something mysterious to get the baby out.
- Choose a Present for Baby – Plan a day out together and involve your child in picking a welcome home present for baby. Have them keep it safely in a special place till baby arrives and have them bring it along when they come to meet the baby.
- First Meeting – When your child first comes into the room, plan so that you have your arms free to welcome them, hold them, and connect with them BEFORE the baby is brought into the picture. Your child has probably been away from you for a while and needs the time to reconnect with you. It might be a short while or a long time. But giving them this time will be some reassurance that things haven’t completely turned upside down in their world
- Safe and comfortable for the first cuddle – Have your child sit down on a wide surface, like a bed, and lay the baby next to them so they can get acquainted in ease without stressing out the grown ups around that they might drop the baby! Allow your child to explore the baby safely and gently. If you find that your child is a little too rough, gently hold their hand and show them the appropriate way to touch. Often times we tell our children “Don’t!” and forget to offer them an alternative option for what they can do instead.
- Sibling Gift for your older child – Presents make everything more fun! Buy a gift “from baby” ahead of time and pack it into your hospital bag so you can give it to your child when they first come to visit you. They will be thrilled that their little baby sister or brother brought a present along for them. I also love the idea of gifting a newborn sized doll to your child to care for all on their own. You can find one that comes with its own diapers and change of clothes so your child can play along right next to you as you mother your new baby.
- First Bath – Your child will love the idea of taking part in giving the baby their first bath. Your partner can take your child along to the nursery in the hospital so your child can watch or participate by pouring some water on the baby’s legs or rubbing some soap on the baby’s back.