When I was pregnant with our second child, I knew that thoughtful and gentle preparation for our oldest was going to be an important job. He has always been sensitive, curious and cautious and while I knew that it would be exciting for him, I also knew that he would need to be a part of the process and we would need to do our best to let him know what to expect. Some children adjust without much need for preparation, they are just excited to be a big brother or big sister. And some might even get more anxious with more preparation. You know your child best and if you think they might benefit from preparation and participation and insight, please read on and I hope these tips help.
Read Subtle Books
We had a few of the obvious ‘You’re Going to be a Big Brother’ books but my favorite and what I believe to have been the most effective, were our two more subtle books. Over and over and over, we read On Mother’s Lap by Ann Herbert Scott. It is a sweet little story about a boy who loves to sit on his mother’s lap and continues to add toys and dolls and blankets to her lap while they rock. Then his sibling wakes up from a nap and wants to climb up too, the boy is mad but mother assures him that there is always room on mother’s lap. ❤
A second book that we liked is called I Heard Said the Bird by Polly Berrien Berends and it is about the excited suspense and anticipation of a ‘new one’ arriving on the farm. All the animals hope and wonder if it’s a new pig or a new chick but then the little boy on the farm announces that it is his new sibling.
The subtlety of both of these stories addressed real worries that my son might have been having like sharing his mama. He consistently asked to read these two books above all the other Big Brother books we had which spoke to me about what it was that he needed.
Separation of Belongings
Children often feel a strong sense of ownership over their belongings and can be attached to things that we don’t even think of as being important to them. When a new sibling arrives and he or she needs those same belongings, it may cause resentment or difficulty of acceptance. There is no need to buy new items for either child but being mindful of what may cause the older child to feel sad about no longer being the baby or resentful for having to share what’s his, can help the entire family during this process.
That said, I did purchase new Aden & Anais swaddle blankets for baby because they had become a security item for our oldest and those certainly could not be removed from his grasp. I also made sure to buy a different brand of pacifier because even though he hadn’t had one in a while, it was another major security item for him.
One thing that we were certain we wanted to do before #2’s arrival was to move our older son into his new bedroom and out of the nursery. Baby was due in February and we wanted him to have a good couple of months to adjust to the new sleeping arrangement, no longer feel attached to his old room and not feel that he was being kicked out of his space for the baby. We set up his new space and closed the door to the nursery for a solid month. I snuck in when he was sleeping to rearrange furniture and empty the room of anything that he might feel ownership over. We also removed the high chair from sight and all toys that would become baby’s went in the nursery.
Now, not every family can replicate this exact situation for any number of reasons but no matter how or what, try removing any items you can that your older child may associate as belonging to him when he was a baby. Other examples may be a crib, bouncy seat, nursing pillow, bottles, changing table, pack ‘n play…
When it comes time to prepping and organizing baby’s things like clothes and diapers, consider how much your older child can help you with before doing it on your own. When diapers were washed, my son put them in baskets on the changing table. When onsies and pajamas were sorted by size, my son chose the drawers in which to arrange them. He helped put books and toys on the shelves.
I know that this part of the process was important to him and he took these jobs very seriously.
About a month before my due date, my husband and I made a book for our son that told the story of what would happen when I went into the hospital. He had only ever spent one night away from me so that could have played a huge factor in any possible anxiety or fear.
The book itself included pictures of who was going to take care of him and where. It also talked about where I would be and who would be taking care of me, with a picture of the hospital and my midwife. With pictures of our car and the two car seats, we wrote about what would happen when it was time to come home and how he could talk or sing to the baby in the car. Next, we added photos of some of the toys and books he might like to share with his new brother or sister and ways that he could help take care of baby. Lastly, we included pictures of the three of us as a family and made sure to say that no matter what we would always have time to hug and kiss him and sing him songs and read him books.
He adored this book. He asked us to read it to him and looked at the pictures on his own. Every now and then the book shows up when we dig out an old favorite story or we are rearranging the book shelves and it’s sweet to remember that time with him.
I typed everything up on the computer but ordering a book from a photo website would be great, too.
I wouldn’t doubt if I was forgetting something as it was over three years ago. I’ll edit to add if something else comes to mind. Good luck mama’s and papa’s!
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