Parenting: prepare the kid for a new sibling

Yesterday evening when Richard went to pick up Eric from school, Ms. Tona had a talk with Richard about how to prepare Eric for a new sibling.  Ms. Tona said that some kids may act differently right before they have a new brother or sister, and she suggested us to take some action to prepare Eric to get over the difficult situation.

I have thought that we have prepared Eric well for an addition of our family.  We told him at the beginning of my pregnancy that he is going to have a new baby, and we also told him the time when he expects to have the baby.  Eric showed interest to have a new sibling.  He asked questions such as “where is the baby now?”, and “where will the baby come out from?”  He would put his head under my shirt and pretended that he was a baby in mom’s belly too.  He told us some of his classmates have brothers or sisters too with a longing expression on the face.  Later three of us thought of potential baby names together based on the principle that only a baby name was approved by all three of us should we call the baby with the name (although later I made the decision :-)).  I have thought that Eric was expecting to have a new sister with excitement.

However, after Richard told me the talk between him and Ms. Tona, I thought it over and realized that the situation was not as I have imagined.  Eric did show some signs of stress recently from the potential “sibling rivalry.”  For example, at first, Eric said that he liked to have a sister, and later when we told him that he is going to have a sister, he seemed to change his mind and said he would rather to have a brother and a sister.  When I said “I love you” to Eric, previously he would reply with a naughty smile, “I love you, I love you.  I said twice, mom, I love you twice.”  Recently, he would reply with a question “why, mom, why do you love me?”  This was absolutely a sign of anxiety.  Recently he also became more haughty and insubordinate.  I felt awful that I was such a careless mom who neglected Eric’s subtle feeling.

Since now I have realized the issue, I actively think of ways to relax Eric’s anxiety and prepare him well for a new sibling.  Currently I am doing the following:-

  • Say “I love you” more frequently to Eric.  When I say this, I’ll show a serious express that I really mean it together with a kiss and a hug.  If he raised a question like why, I’ll double ensure him by answering him, “I just love you.  You are always my sweetheart.”
  • I’ll ask such question to him, “Eric, do you know why mom wants to give you a sister?” He may or may not answer this question, I’ll tell him that, “Because mom wants to give you a good friend, and to play with you at home and all the time.  You won’t be alone.  Is that wonderful?”
  • I’ll weave different versions of a story named “a little boy and his new sister” to help him visualize when his sister comes out, what will our life look like, and how he can help mommy and daddy to take care of the sister.  Eric seems to enjoy the story.

I also look through the internet for ideas how to cope older kid with the new impending baby.  Here are some good suggestions that I’ll definitely try them out:-

  •  Read books about pregnancy, birth, newborns, and baby siblings with your child.  Give them a chance to ask questions, voice concerns, and vent feelings inspired by the books.
  • Look at pictures/video of your older child’s birth and babyhood.  Tell them about their birth and what they were like as a baby.  Tell them how excited you were when they were born, and how everyone wanted to see them and hold them.  Emphasize the older child’s specialness by going through his baby pictures and talking about what a wonderful baby he was, and what a wonderful boy he is now.
  • Have your child practice holding a doll and supporting the head.  Teach them how to touch and hold a baby very gently.
  • Let them participate in preparations in any way possible.  Give them choices, such as choosing the baby’s coming home outfit from two acceptable options.
  • Go to the doctor with the old kid to hear the baby’s heartbeat.
  • Check with your hospital about sibling preparation classes and tours, which offer lessons on how to hold a baby, explanations of how a baby is born, and opportunities for your child to discuss his or her feelings about having a new brother or sister.  If you do this education yourself, be sure your child understands that babies cry a lot at first and aren’t ready to play for a long time, but that the baby will always look up to big brother and want his attention and care.
  • Keep your relationship with your older child as smooth and affectionate as possible, sidestepping power struggles and minimizing conflicts.  He needs to be secure in your love to handle the arrival of a sibling with equanimity. Naturally he’ll be testing you to be sure you still love him.
  • Pack a bag together for the hospital that includes a photo of him.

Here are some ideas about what Parents Can Do After the Birth:-

  • Arrange for siblings to visit if Mom and baby are in the hospital for a few days.
  • When the new baby comes home, arrange for someone to bring over a birthday cake.
  • Have the baby and your older child exchange presents.
  • Have gifts on hand for the older child when friends and family bring baby gifts.
  • Encourage fathers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents to spend more time with the older child.
  • Give the older child status with special jobs to help the family, then praise him for his helpfulness.
  • Ask him to help set the table for meals or get the mail.
  • Every day find a way to spend time alone with your older children and focus solely on them.
  • Encourage the sibling to play with the doll he practiced on before the baby was born.
  • Have a place for the older children where their belongings will not be disturbed by a crawling baby in the months to come.
  • Calmly accept any negative feelings your older child expresses about the baby, while at the same time emphasize the baby is always to be treated gently.
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