Thursday, May 15, 2008

Introducing Older Siblings to "The Baby"

Those of us who are mothers of two or more have all had those fantasies: our oldest child lovingly embracing the new baby, eager to help mommy with added chores, and excited to have a new playmate.  We lovingly introduce them in the hospital and wait with eager anticipation to see how they'll react to each other, all the while entertaining visions of joint sleepovers and double dates.  Some times that's what happens.  But more often than not, reality hits and every mommy, at one point or another, will have to deal with the older child's adjustment to "The Baby."  Here are just a few thoughts and tips to help you along the way:
  • Start talking about the new baby with your child as soon as you announce the news to everyone else.  Don't keep your oldest in the dark.  They will wonder why you're not feeling well if you have morning sickness and you don't want to frighten them.  Don't blame the sickness or your restrictions on the baby.  Simply tell your oldest that this is a special time in your life and there are some things that you can and cannot do.
  • Expect your child to be more interested in you when you're in the hospital.  While your oldest may be casually interested in the baby, he will probably be more concerned about your condition or what's going on around him.  Try to act normally with them, even in the hardest of circumstances.  Even after a C-section, I tried to keep things normal for my little guy by sharing items from my meals or cuddling in the hospital bed.  
  • Do a gift exchange.  Depending on your personal philosophy about gift giving, you can pack a gift from the baby to your oldest child.  Also have Daddy or Grandma take the child shopping to pick up something small for the baby.  Daddy took my little guy to pick out a stuff animal for the baby.  To this day, he reminds her that the kitty is from him.
  • Tape a picture of the big brother or sister in the bassinet and tell the sibling that the baby likes looking at them.  I can't take credit for this one.  I read this tip and it's great.  Not only does it make the older sibling comfortable, but also begins to introduce the baby to being a part of the family. 
  • Ask the older sibling for help, but don't push.  Encourage them to run small "errands" for you: getting diapers or wipes, talking to the baby while you are changing it, retrieve a favorite stuffed animal, sing to them while on a car trip, etc.  But don't push the older sibling to be involved if they're hesitant.  Remember you are the parent and he/she may need more time to adjust.
  • Keep some sense of routine and normalcy.  If you usually have a busy lifestyle, try to keep the most important activities as a part of your life.  We've slowed down with the second child, but still try to make it to gym class every week and are slowly trying to incorporate story time back into our lives.  If you spend leisurely mornings at home, don't suddenly cram in Mommy & Me classes.
  • It's never too early to encourage sharing between siblings, but know where to draw the line.  Your "only baby" has become "an older sibling" and with that comes learning the valuable skill of sharing with others.  Encourage him/her to begin sharing with the new baby, but know what's off bounds.  For example, my son has his four "babies."  They are continually attached to him.  They are "off bounds" as far as sharing.  I wouldn't ask him to share with others on a play date nor do I ask him to share the with his sister.  They are strictly his.
  • Take time to do things one on one with your oldest child.  Ask your husband, mom, neighbor, etc. to watch the baby for a few hours while you and your first born enjoy an activity together.  Go to a local park.  Visit Barnes and Noble for hot chocolate and children's books.  Go to the soccer field and kick the ball around.  Spend some tokens at Chuck E. Cheese.
Remember these are just a few tips to help smooth the transition of introducing a new baby into your family.  Take a deep breath and embrace the new adventure you're about to embark upon.  Only 4 months into the journey, we're loving it.  And who knows?  Maybe there will be double dates in the future of this family after all.

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