10 Ways to Introduce the New Baby to Siblings
A guest post from Pragmatic Mom.
Now I have to give a disclaimer: I clearly have not gotten this right because my middle daughter still asks why we thought having a third child was a good idea. She thinks that we should have stopped while we were ahead.
I did read a lot of books and sought a lot of advice on how to get my older child (and then children) excited about the new baby. Here’s the list of advice from many moms I solicited.
1. Read Books Together: Here are some of my favorites:
- I’m a Big Sister or I’m a Big Brother – These books are sweet and put a positive spin on being a big sister or brother. I liked that spin so I read these as much as my kids would tolerate!
- Za-Za’s Baby Brother – We were a little obsessed with the Maisy series so this book by same author, Lucy Cousins, was a favorite of mine. My middle child was able to relate to the downside of a new baby but it had a nice, happy ending! I also liked how it covered what happens when mom and dad have to rush to the hospital to deliver the baby. It’s set up with realistic expectations of what will happen and in Za-Za’s case, as was ours, grandma came to the rescue!
- A Baby Sister for Frances – Some kids will notice the downside of a new baby in the house. In this story, Frances does too; like routines becoming upset, running out of favorite food items, and not having her favorite dress clean and ready for school. In the end, Frances realizes that the baby needs her because who doesn’t need an older sister to show baby the ropes?!
- Big Sister Dora! – As I recall, my middle daughter was going through a huge Dora phase so this was a no-brainer.
2. Communicate – Ask family and friends to make a big fuss over the siblings role in having a new baby in the house. Asking the sibling for permission to see the baby will also give them a feeling of involvement and importance.
For visitors like family who will likely be bringing a present to the new baby, ask them to bring one for each of the siblings and offer to pay for those gifts if this seems like an ackward request. The baby can not be the only one getting presents or attention!
3. Give Presents From the Baby – Have the baby give a present to each older sibling when they first come to visit. Buy this in advance, wrap it and store it in your “hospital suitcase”. When your kids arrive, tell them that the baby is so excited to meet them that he/she has a special gift for them. You’ll be amazed at how quickly feelings of jealousy or insecurity are replaced by feelings of acceptance and excitement when receiving a new toy, especially when the gift giver is the baby!
4. Let Them Be Hands On – Don’t enforce a total “hands off” policy. Your children will see this as special rule that applies only to them since they will witness the parents in almost constant contact with baby. Instead, teach them how to gently touch the baby by holding their hand or gently patting the tummy.
5. Involve & Reward Them – Give the sibling a job and reward them with effusive praise for a job well done! My girls like to help diaper the baby so they were runners to fetch a new diaper and wipes. Turns out that we humans are motivated less by money than by “non-monetary recognition” in the work place. We just want to feel appreciated for our effort and for a job well done. Kids are no different! Other tasks could be fetching the already prepared bottle, entertaining the baby with “peek-a-boo”, or telling mommy when the baby is up. As a new mom, I was exhausted so I could use all the help I could get and my kids were surprisingly helpful, at least some of the time!
6. Think Location, Location, Location – We’ve all heard this phrase before but it lends itself to more than just where to start a new business. Having a basket of special items for the siblings near the location that you spend most time tending to baby’s needs can prove to be a genius idea. The older children will no doubt be unhappy not being the center of attention when you are focusing on your new baby. Having cleverly placed distractions in this area will help! Just be sure to rotate items frequently and add in new surprises from time to time. Your child can play in parallel while you are tending to the baby.
7. Use Positive Reinforcement – Point out when the baby is preferring to interact with the sibling over anyone else. Talk about this a LOT!!
- “You are the only person that can make the baby stop crying when you make that silly face.”
- “The baby seems so much happier when you are around.”
- “Thank goodness you were here when the baby woke up because the baby likes you the best.”
8. Relate the Advantages of Being Older - Talk about the advantages of being older versus being a baby. Let the older child know that they have it better with all the things they can do. Baby can’t eat pizza or ice cream or run around and play as they can. Make a long list together having the older child contribute to the list.
9. Make Early Transitions – Try to make transitions well in advance of the baby’s arrival. These may include things like room switching or transitioning from a crib to bed. Try not to spring too many changes on the other children all at once. The presence of a new baby in the house is a lot to take on in and of itself so space other changes out when you can. My middle daughter still talks about the room switch even though she went from the tiny nursery to a much bigger room. I think we did this 6 months in advance but clearly it wasn’t early enough!
10. Take Pictures – Take a lot of pictures of the older kids taking care of the baby. Make sure the ratio of photos snapped is somewhat equal between the baby and the rest of the kids. Even better, take photos of the kids interacting in a positive way with the new baby. “Grandma and Grandpa MUST see this picture of you holding the baby so gently”. “What a great big brother/sister you are!” “Wait, don’t move. I need to take your picture!”. Positive reinforcement like this will subconsciously program the older children to want to be involved with the new baby. It’s hard to feel “left out” when your assistance is appreciated so openly.
What About You? Can you share any tips and tricks that made your kids excited about the new baby? Please leave a comment! Thank you!
PragmaticMom writes a parenting, education and children’s literature blog at http://PragmaticMom.com, Education Matters. She needed every tip and trick to introduce the new baby to siblings. The oldest was very excited to get a new sister, but her middle child thought that we should have stopped while we were ahead. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook at PragmaticMom to hear how it all works out.