Good Sam Health System - January 31, 2018

The arrival of a new baby means lots of changes for a family. Between visits to the doctor to last-minute finishing touches to the nursery, there’s certainly a lot to focus on before it’s time to go to the hospital. What most parents fail to consider is the roller coaster of emotions they will experience once they bring the baby home. For families with siblings, the addition of a new family member can evoke even more complex feelings for everyone involved.

#1 So Many Questions

For most kids, the concept of a real sibling doesn’t settle in until the baby comes home. In the meantime, expect lots of questions like where the baby came from and how it’s able to live inside mommy’s belly.

These questions might seem difficult to explain, but remember that children are usually asking literally. Answer honestly, but simply.  “The baby comes from inside mommy’s belly” may be enough of an answer. So don’t go into more detail until there are follow up questions. 

Also keep your child’s age in mind. A child may not understand dates, so answer “When will the baby get here?” with something like “when leaves start to fall” or “when it gets cold outside.”

Kids love stories about themselves and a child awaiting a new sibling might need additional attention and assurance. So do both by bringing the child’s own baby pictures and birth experience into the conversation. It helps make the experience a lot more relatable when kids see “This is how we brought you home.

#2 Jealousy is Normal

At any age, welcoming a new sibling can lead kids to feel like they aren’t getting a fair share of attention. Depending on the age of the older child, they might start to act out to get it. To help, include kids in daily activities involving the baby pre- and post-arrival will avoid feelings of being left out.

You can also allow kids (even younger ones) to help with baby-related activities, from choosing a name to picking out an outfit.  It keeps them occupied and also gives them the boost of confidence they need to feel like they are part of the family. Just be careful with older kids that they don’t start to see the new sibling as a chore-increaser.

#3 Get into the Swing of Things

Even older siblings will wonder what it actually will be like when the new baby comes. Exposing them to this experience prior to the big day will help relieve some anxiety and calm any fears.

If they are not already familiar with hospitals, bring them with you on a hospital tour so they know what to expect. If there are other newborns in your social circle, consider volunteering yourself and child as baby sitters. Your friend will get a much-appreciated break and your child will get an opportunity to express their curiosities or fears.

#4 Pets Are People, Too

“Fur babies” are a big part of the family for many and it’s important to prepare your whole family for a new arrival. Researchers have found that the mind of a dog, for example, is roughly the equivalent of a two-year-old. Just like a human toddler, they can feel joy, fear, anger, disgust, and love, so it’s important to address their emotional needs.

Babies are noisy. So if your pet is not used to a noisy environment, it's important to expose them to more commotion as early into the pregnancy as possible.

To introduce the baby to the family cat or dog, bring home a used baby blanket from the hospital before you get home to let them get used to the baby’s scent.

Enlist your older child(ren) in helping give your pet some additional love and attention while the household adjusts.

Remember: Don’t leave the baby alone with pets until a regular routine is established.

#5 Just Be Honest

You may not be able to make everyone happy all the time and that’s okay. A new baby can be cute and cuddly, but they also cry and take up a lot of time and attention.

Infants take about 12 weeks adjusting to a tolerable sleep schedule and interruptions in rest can be stressful for the whole family. Siblings may also feel frustrated that they cannot play with the baby right away like they might have imagined and might have issues expressing how they really feel. That’s where a little reassurance goes a long way.

Explain what having a new baby means and what changes may affect him or her—both the good and the not so good. Knowing that you love them as much as before the baby came is a simple reminder that cannot be repeated enough.