Preparing for a newborn is never easy, and it can go either south or north to the only child. Depending on the age of your child, each idea should be presented at an age-appropriate level.
Clinical Psychologist, Health Service Psychologist, a Board Certified Music Therapist, Dr. Bethany Cook shares some suggestions that may help ease your first born into being a big brother or big sister:
- Read books that talk about getting a sibling.
- Talk about how your heart can fully love two people. Get a piece of paper and draw a heart on it. Then ask your child to color it red and tell them this is the love you have for them. Then give them the blue crayon and have them color on top of the red sharing that this is also how much you love their sibling. Once completed, explain how your love for them does not change. Their sibling merely adds more color to your heart and makes it a beautiful purple.
- Offer to get a special toy or plant which requires gentle hands or special care to keep it safe. Explain how the baby will be fun to play with but that they must be gentle like they have been with their toy.
- Talk about your own experience with siblings. Did you have any? How was it for you? What did your parents do to help you? Did it work?
- Point out famous siblings who worked together and accomplished great things.
- Use a metaphor to explain “team family.” New family members may not be MVPs yet (as they are still learning life skills) yet with support and guidance the entire team becomes successful both as a group but also as its individual components.
- Talk honestly about the changes that are bound to happen within the family structure (such as room changes, occasional babywatching for older siblings, etc). And talk about the disruptions that you don’t know will happen yet but that may arise (Colic and screaming baby for hours, etc)
- Ask your child for input on how to set up or decorate the baby's room and/or the play room. This will help them feel empowered in making decisions which impact their living space and life.
- Remind them daily they are loved. When you overreact, apologize. Offer over the top positive feedback for good behaviors.
- Set up times (if possible) for your older child to have special “playdates” or outings where the focus is on them and not the baby.
- Have your child pick out a toy for the baby and you pick one out from the baby to your child.
As parents we have all our own unique approach to our children - find out what works and stick with it!