Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Prepare Your Other Kids

Many of you know that I do teach a sibling class from time to time and that I include a list of suggestions in the form of a letter to the parents of these prospective siblings. In act, I think I have attached the letter to this site. However, some things need repeating and preparing your kids for the birth of a sibling is one of those things.

Depending on the age of your child, he will be come curious as your body changes. Don't make your body a big deal. You need not hide it or cover up. Considering the changes that your body will make during the gestation period is a perfectly natural way for your kid to slowly get used to the idea of a baby coming and even where it's growing and where and how it might come out.

Ask the children's librarian at your local branch for age-appropriate books about the birds and the bees and about additions to the family. The books may prove quite useful in introducing topics that are relevant but difficult to initiate on your own. Children have fears about being displaced, ignored, overlooked and abandoned when a cute new baby comes to live at their house. Older children may worry about their mother's perceived sickness or even demise. Children need a lot of reassurance and repetetion about how it most likely will be, how they might feel about it and how much you will always love and be there for them. It's still about them and how it affects them.

You should tell the truth about how trying days with a newborn can be, for you and for them. A baby cries and eats and poops and rarely sleeps, especially when your older one needs anything and everything, right away. Some husbands feel the same way. Talk about your child's feelings and do not negate them. These are only feelings, afterall and they pave the way for healthy discussion. Never tell anyone ( including your child ) how they do or should feel. Explore the feeling.

Getting the other family members involved in the pregnancy probably will make make it easier to get them involved in the new baby. Take your family to doctor and nurse visits. Let everyone see ultrasounds and hear fetal heart beats. Take them to the maternity facility where you will deliver and get them familiar with the idea of seeing you in a hospital bed. You are going to have a baby; you are not sick.

Let older siblings participate in naming the baby and decorating the nursery and choosing the layette items. They may want to start a journal or picture book about how they feel, what the baby will be like and how the family picture will change.

Hire help to care for the baby or engage granparents and extended family members in those mundane tasks. You devote your free-time to interacting with the older kids.
Go to the park, a movie or just stay close to home and bake cookies. Choose a time that is scheduled, if possible, for a special story or long cuddle, everyday. If you are busy, let your child know that you can't right now and follow through with whatever, when you can. Don't make promises you can't keep. And remember the best way to reinforce cooperation and trust and discourage whining and jealousy is to be present and positive about all the wonderful things the older one does right, not what he does wrong. Ignore the attention- getting behaviors that drive you batty and reward helpful, cheery, understanding and reasonable needs and requests.

Good luck. You aren't just having a baby. You are making a family. Hard work, especially when there isn't a village near-by. Make a community so that all your children know that there are several adults that they can go to and trust. Make a community so that you have someone to talk to when the going gets rough.