As my three year old son peeked around the corner into my hospital room, my hope was that we had prepared him well for this moment. It was the first time he would meet his twin sisters. As he walked into the room, I could see his apprehension melt away when he saw that there were balloons and a gift –for him. We explained that we were celebrating him becoming a big brother and the gift was from his new little sisters. After focusing excitedly on his gift, he slowly made his way over to the girls. As his Dad lifted him to get a good look, I saw a spark of acceptance as he smiled down at his little sisters. While he would inevitably need some more ‘convincing,’ I knew we were off to a good start.
For children, especially toddlers and preschoolers, the addition of a baby can be very confusing, stressful and even scary. It is important to start the process of introducing this change to your child early on, before the baby’s arrival. Here are 10 tips to help prepare a child for the arrival of a new sibling:
Let’s Pretend! We used two dolls for the twins and pretended to have the babies sleep, eat and get their diapers changed. It helped our son learn a little bit about the needs of babies and that mommy and daddy would have to take care of the babies.
Read! Share books, videos or stories with your child about becoming a big brother or sister.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. Let your child help you get things ready for baby. We had our son help us put baby supplies away and organize the nursery.
Adjust Early to New Routines. Start adjusting any changes to your child’s routine before the baby comes. This ensures that your child doesn’t see the changes as a result of the baby.
Ease Separation Anxiety – before it starts! Schedule time for your child to be away from you. In my situation, my son had rarely spent time away from me. I knew when my twins arrived, I would need help with my son and some alone time with new babies. Early on, we started scheduling time for him to go to Grandma’s house on a regular basis. When the babies arrived, it was something he was secure with, rather than another new experience.
When You Were a Baby… Let your child look at their old baby clothes, toys and pictures/videos. Talk about what he/she was like as a baby.
Visit Other Babies. Visit a friend or family member with a new baby.
Not All at Once. A baby is a big change so keep other changes, if at all possible, to a minimum.
Ease Fears. Let your child visit the hospital, if possible, or have a discussion about doctors and hospitals. Children may have preconceived notions about these things. It’s best to discuss it to ease any anxieties beforehand.
Share the Plan. Let your child know exactly what to expect in the days leading up to and following the arrival of the baby. We made a picture schedule for my son, so he could see what would be happening and when. He knew would be at Grandma’s during the day and with Daddy at night and on what days he would be visiting the hospital.
Stephanie C. is a mother to three children – an active 3 year old boy and 4 ½ month old twin girls. A former school counselor, Stephanie is now a stay-at-home mom in New Jersey. You can find parenting tips, twin resources and product picks at her blog, Mammamoiselle.