Be aware that they may need time to adjust from the very moment you share with them that you are pregnant right up to the hospital when the baby arrives. So prepare to navigate this adjustment beyond the initial hospital introduction and well into the first few months of your bringing the new baby home.
Tovah Klein, director of the Barnard College Centre for Toddler Development at Columbia University says, “Don’t have high expectations. Some children are very excited. Some children completely ignore it or worse.”
“Tempering expectations can keep the focus on the long term instead of the short term. While a great hospital moment is ideal, and it is possible to set up the meeting for success, parents shouldn’t stress over it. The goal is happy children and happy parents. So, instead of a chance bedside meeting, you can choreographing the meeting a bit. For starters, the baby should be in a bassinet, not in the parents’ arms when they arrive. From there it’s time to start a conversation”, adds Klein.
Here are some other things to keep in mind during this time:
Prepare your child during the pregnancy
Even during your pregnancy make the sibling feel they are part of the pregnancy journey by tracking together which weeks of pregnancy you’re in and what stages of development stage the baby is at. Allow them during these times, many opportunities to pose any questions they may have.
Make it a two-way excitement
A sibling gift is a great way to do the initial introduction between the siblings. “Introduce them. Say, ‘This is your new brother or sister.’ Have a gift for them from the baby. It can be small. Tell them it’s from the brother or sister and they couldn’t wait to meet you. Slip a picture of your child in the bassinet. ‘The baby wanted to see you right away so I showed him a picture!’ Then talk to the baby. This is your brother or sister” advises Klein.
Make the older sibling feel important
Because there may be an initial feeling of the new baby having taken over their space, it’s important to reassure the older sibling that they will always have their space in your home and more importantly in your heart. Author and family counsellor Alyson Schafer advises parents to highlight for the child that love is infinite. “So, one of the ways to explain having a new baby is to light candles on a cupcake. You can do this in a hospital room and say something like “’When I met your dad, I gave him all your love.’ Use the first candle to light a second. ‘Then we had you and there is more love in the family.’ Light a third candle. ‘Now we have your sibling and there’s even more love.’ Light the fourth. ‘Look how much love we have!’”.
Keep to the older sibling’s routine
You may have your hands full with the new baby at home but it’s also important during this time that you keep to your older child’s routine as much as possible. If you’re used to tucking them in for bed, stick to that, even if it’s with the new baby in your arms. This will make them feel that there is still a level of normalcy in the family routines, despite the new addition to the family.
Give them time to adjust
Even though the initial introduction may be tricky, it will get better with time. These siblings have a lifetime of bonding time ahead of them so relax and give them the opportunity to get to know each other. With time, they will adjust.
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