First born children have the unique experience of being the only child in the household…that is, until their parents decide that it’s time to have another baby. This can be a huge change for your oldest, and if you’re not thinking about helping older siblings cope with the baby, there can be some big issues. That’s why preparing your first child for a new baby is so important.
But not to worry, there are a few key steps to preparing your first child for a new baby. These helpful tools will make the transition smooth for everyone involved, and your children can start off on the right foot.
1. Include your child in your pregnancy, every step of the way
From the first positive confirmation, to the first doctor’s appointment, try to include your child in every step you take. Introduce them to the idea of becoming a big brother or sister immediately, and show them every day how they are going to be a part of it all.
This includes having them give their own input when it comes to choosing toys, clothes, and other purchases. With your oldest included, he or she will feel like this is something they are totally involved in, rather than feeling as if it is happening to them.
2. Let them know how lucky they are to be given this special role
Talk with your child and help him or her to understand that they are getting a “promotion”. When preparing your first child for a new baby, get them excited for all of the wonderful new responsibilities and privileges that come with being an older sibling.
Let them know that you are so happy that they are the one who will be filling those shoes. This will allow your child to feel important and needed, and will give them a sense of pride in trying to be the best big brother or sister they can be.
3. Spend some quality one-on-one time with your older child
It’s hard to find spare time when you have a newborn baby on your hands, but it is so important to make sure that you block out a bit of time (whatever you can spare) to be with your oldest child, alone. This means that you have chosen an activity specifically for you to do with him or her, that has nothing to do with the baby.
Make sure that during this quality time with your oldest you are completely focused on him or her. This will show that you are also prioritizing them into your schedule, and that they haven’t become “second” to the baby.
4. Make sure that there are gifts for your oldest and not just for the baby
Of course, it’s expected that friends and family will shower you with gifts for the new baby when it comes. This is a wonderful tradition, but make sure that you have a few things picked out for your oldest as well.
It’s easy for your oldest child to feel left out when everyone comes with presents for the new baby and nothing for him or her. So have a few “big brother/sister” gifts ready for them, to congratulate them on their amazing new role in the family. Some families even have a gift FROM the baby to their oldest child, which is a very sweet idea as well.
5. Validate your oldest’s feelings, even if they are negative
Adding a new baby to the family is an enormous upheaval for all members, but especially for older children who are used to being the baby themselves.
Listen to your child and hear everything he or she is feeling. Let them know that you understand why they are feeling this way, and that their concerns are valid. Also, make sure they understand that you are going to be there all the way to help them with these feelings and to make sure that they are taken care of, no matter what.