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Introducing a Sibling - Our Best Tips

The anticipation of a new baby can bring so much excitement to a growing family. Parents and grandparents talk happily about the "new" baby, they chat about plans for decorating the nursery and shopping for new clothes. They strategize about who will be where when the big day comes. It can be easy to forget how abstract and confusing it all might be for the soon-to-be big brother or sister listening in the wings.

Even as your toddler or preschooler finds herself being congratulated on her new role, she will likely wonder what is about to happen to her world. This can be compounded by well-meaning relatives who may jokingly warn her about how she won't "be the baby for long!"

We turned to the experts for some advice about how to handle this magical time in a young family's life. A few of them actually wrote the book on how to help your children get off to the best start as siblings. We also asked our crew of veteran moms and dads here at IncrediBundles.com to tell us what has worked for their own families. Here is some of the best advice we found.

Books Can Help!

Use books to help your child understand in a more concrete way what it will be like to have this new little person in their world. And don't sugar coat it too much. Let them know this child will cry, eat and poop a lot but that they will also have a special relationship that is only for them – siblings.

We love Caroline Jayne Church's board books I Am a Big Sister and I Am a Big Brother for the youngest, those children infant to age 3. In fact, we love them so much we feature them in our bestselling I'm a Big Sister Bundle and I'm a Big Brother Bundle along with a beautiful plush bear announcing the recipient's awesome new status. They're the perfect new sibling gifts.

 

Use Pretend Play to Teach Your Toddler About Babies

"Pretend play help toddlers gain an understanding of the world," says Susan Linn, Ed.D., author of The Case for Make Believe. Using dolls, you can playfully lead your toddler or preschooler through a variety of scenarios that he or she will later see you engage in with their new little brother or sister. Try singing a lullaby together as your little one tries to get their doll to sleep. Teach your toddler how to burp a baby doll - complete with fun exaggerated "BURP!" sounds of course. In addition to the fun this pretend play will be, your child will also learn that babies require quite a bit of handling and management by their parents and that some of it will be loud and messy.

 

Notice All the Babies Around You

Help your child take notice when you see families with multiple children out and about - especially when you see a parent with a child their age and a young infant. This can make it all seem more real, natural and doable.

 

Don't Establish False Expectations – For Either of You

Adele Faber, the co-author of Siblings Without Rivalry, points out that, while a new sibling is exciting and precious, young children can't help but notice that their immediate impact is to leave less for them – "Less lap, less smiles, less time, less attention. It can be very threatening."

Knowing this can help parents to understand why a child might act out or seem less than thrilled. It can also help parents to be more sensitive to their young child as they work to acclimate to a new family dynamic. Take time to be alone with your older child and include him as people come to call on the new baby. Remember to include the older sibling in that photo with grandma and grandpa, with the new baby or on their own.

 

Remember That the Logistics of Having a Baby Can Seem Scary

Hospitals can be a scary place, even if you're there for the best reason. Childbirth usually involves putting your older child in someone else's care at odd hours. I had never spent the night away from my firstborn until I went to the hospital to give birth to her baby brother. Know that when your older child comes to visit you at the hospital after you give birth, he might be a little nervous at first. Let it be about just the two of you before you introduce the new baby.

I was able to minimize the scariness of the hospital room – where my children would have to reluctantly leave me for another night – by pointing out some of the cool features like the remote control bed, the buttons that let me call for anything I needed at the nurse's station and the tv of course.

Other suggestions I love are personalizing the room with pictures of or by your older child, changing into regular clothes when you greet your child that first day, giving the older sibling a gift "from" the new baby and reminding visitors beforehand to greet the older child too.

 

After You Get Home

Taking care of a newborn and an older child can be challenging and there will be a learning curve for everyone. Routines can be lifesavers for parents and this is especially true when you are learning to balance two children. Your newborn's schedule will be erratic but you can use her needs as "cues" for things to do with your firstborn. Does the baby need to eat? Have specific spots where you feed your baby that are "firstborn friendly." These are spots that have room enough for all three of you and some sort of activity that your older child can engage in while your younger one eats. Perhaps a comfy couch with a box of her favorite books nearby? She can "read" them to you or you can read them to her. Maybe a relaxing chair near an arts and crafts table that has a stash of supplies? Feeding time seems like a great time for some play dough or sticker fun.

 

Talk It Out – Creatively

I often feel that one of the most important things I do as a parent is listen and talk. The listening is easy but the talking part has to be done a little more creatively. Especially with young children, sometimes it's not what you tell a child it's how you tell it to them.

I love Adele Faber's idea of letting an older child know how much their baby brother or sister loves them right from the start by marveling out loud about how "the baby only smiles like that for his brother" or that "his sister always gets him to give the biggest laughs."

One of our parents here at IncrediBundles.com talks about how she "mentions" to her older child that she bets the baby will be so happy when he gets to stay up late with them and eat ice cream instead of having the same old bottle and off to bed. Reminding your child that being big is a good thing can go a long way to curb new baby envy.

One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a sibling – a co-conspirator in childhood and life. Through all the tears and exhaustion of growing a family, make sure to take the time to appreciate and memorialize the magic of one little person welcoming another into their family and their world. Take lots of pictures and when you look at them years into the future, it's the magic part that you will remember.

 

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