For every question you may have about your new baby, your older child probably has 10. Will the new baby share my bedroom? Will he steal my toys? Will Mom and Dad love him more? Young siblings, especially, may worry that they're being replaced by a new baby. Many of those fears won't translate into behavior issues until after the baby is actually born. Before the baby's arrival, put yourself in your older children's shoes and try to imagine the arrival from their perspective. In general your children will accept the new baby better if they know they still have a central place in your lives and hearts.
Start talking. When you talk to your older children about the baby, ease their fears by reinforcing the fact that they're moving "up the ladder" by getting a bigger room, a bigger bed, or a later bedtime than the baby. Refer to your new baby as "your little brother" or "little sister" instead of "Mommy and Daddy's new baby." This will reinforce the idea that the baby belongs to the whole family.
Reduce anxiety. Take your older children on a tour of the hospital or birth center to relieve any concerns they may have about the unknown. They'll be more comfortable when they know where you'll be when you're not at home, what will happen, and when you'll come back. Be as definite as possible about these things. Many hospitals now offer introductory programs for older children; the staff will show them the nursery and a room like the one you'll be staying in.
Discuss plans for your absence. Line up childcare for your hospital stay and let your children know who will be with them while you're gone. Choose a childcare provider whom they know and like. Arrange for someone to keep your children updated on your progress during labor.
Prepare for siblings to meet. Buy a small gift for your older children to give to the baby, and buy gifts for them from the baby too. When your older children meet the baby, plan for the baby to be in a bassinet and not in your arms, and if they want to exchange presents first, let them. Let older siblings set the pace of their first meeting with their new brother or sister so they can interact in a way that makes them most comfortable.
Don't be surprised if your older children occasionally express resentment or even anger toward the impending arrival. Even the sweetest older sibling might say he already "hates" his new brother or sister. The reality is that your children will experience intense emotions about this change in your life, just as you will. The best thing you can do is listen, tell them that their emotions are understandable, and let them know that they still matter to you. Brotherly and sisterly love will come with time.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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