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Expecting a new addition to the family is an incredibly exciting time, but if you already have a baby, toddler or older child in the family, you’ll need to prepare them for the inevitable changes that occur when you first bring home a newborn baby.
To what degree you have to prepare your existing child or children depends on largely on how old they are, but here are some ideas to get you started:
Telling your child about the baby
It can be very difficult for children under 1 and small toddlers to know what on earth you’re talking about when you suggest that there’s a baby in Mummy’s tummy. There’s not much you can do to get the message through to very little ones, but try to regularly point to your expanding waistline to remind them that you have a small baby growing in there. You can also get a library book such as ‘Babies Don’t Bite’ or similar to help explain to your child that having a new baby sibling is really lovely and that they’re very lucky.
If you need to shuffle bedrooms round a bit to make room for a newborn, then do it sooner rather than later. Adjusting to a new bedroom and possibly a bigger bed can be a huge upheaval for a small child anyway, but if they associate it with the new baby then it may lead to them feeling resentful or displaced. Instead get any room changes and decorations done a few months before your due date so that your child has chance to fully settle in before the baby comes.
Newborns aren’t quite ready to be playmates
Some toddlers might fully understand that they’re getting a brother or sister and be incredibly excited by the idea, but it can be a good idea to explain to your kid/s that newborn babies aren’t quite ready to be their dream playmate just yet. Encourage the reality of having a newborn sibling in the house by explaining that you’d like your little one to help you look after the baby perhaps by assisting with nappy changes (passing a wipe to Mummy) or by giving little supervised cuddles on Daddy’s knee. By the time your baby reaches their first birthday, they’ll be a little more exciting to your older child.
Help with the naming of the baby
If you’re brave enough then you could perhaps get your older children to help choose a name for your baby boy or girl. It can be fun to hear their ideas of what to call the baby – but you might need to prepare yourself for a baby Peppa!
Gifts from the baby
If you feel that your older child is having a little difficulty in embracing the idea of a their new sibling, then a little positive association in the form of a gift can go some way to making them feeling better about their baby sister or brother. You could say something along the lines of ‘This is a present from the baby to her big brother – she’s really excited to meet you soon because she’s heard you’re a very special boy and she is going to love you very much’.
Let us know what you’ve done to prepare your children for the exciting arrival of a new baby!