Having had my daughters nine years apart, I know the challenges faced by having children with large age gaps. For instance, my oldest daughter was used to having her mommy to herself for nine years. Although she prayed and begged for a sibling, her world was rocked once the new baby was brought home and all my attention was focused on her. It also doesn’t help that people would innocently point out to them that mom won’t have as much time for them, unintentionally making the problem worse. Having gone through this, I’ve prepared tips that will help prepare your older child for a new baby and make the transition easier for the entire family.
Make the announcement fun
The first step to preparing your older child for a new sibling is to make how you tell them fun and exciting. Your mood and how you portray their role as an older sibling will set the tone for your child. Make it exciting by telling them how much fun it will be to have a new sibling. When we announced to our daughter that she was finally going to be a big sister, we prepared her favorite meal. We also decorated, and I picked up a personalized scratch-off for the big reveal, as well as a t-shirt she proudly wore on her first day of school.
There are so many ways to announce your child is being upgraded to big bro or sister. You can take your child out to do something they love then go out to eat or for ice cream after to tell them. This will help your child associate the news of a new baby in the family with a happy memory.
Related: I’m Excited to Share Amazing News with You on my 35th Birthday
Talk to your child early and often
Tell your child about the new baby once you know that the pregnancy is viable. Since we experienced several losses in the past we waited until we were 150% sure this was a successful pregnancy. This was around the 16-week mark. It was important that she heard it from us, as she would soon become curious about my growing belly. I would reach a point where I could no longer blame it on overeating or gas. The earlier you tell your older child about the new baby the more time they will have to emotionally prepare for no longer being an only child. When you spring the new baby news on your child shortly before they are born they don’t have time to work past jealousy and other strong emotions.
Refer to the new baby as a good thing for your child
Make a point to mention how much fun having a new baby will be for them. We’ve had conversations with our daughter about fun things she’ll be able to do with her new sister. Even though as a baby, there isn’t much she can do aside from helping with diaper changes and reading, the fun begins when she’s older. For instance, having a sibling means they will always have someone to hang out with. Since she likes to boss her younger cousins around, now she has someone in-house to do that with. Of course, I’m joking.
It really is important to reinforce the bond the two will have as they grow together. Have the conversations while you’re relaxing on the couch watching TV. Let them know that in time, they’ll be able to do the same thing with their new brother or sister while you cook dinner. When you go for a walk, ask them if they are excited to push a stroller. You want to keep them included as much as possible.
Talk to your child about why they will be a great older sibling
Tell them about how they can read books to the baby. They can help with the baby while you cook dinner, and even help pick out outfits and such for the baby. Just like how you are feeling nervous about being the mom of a baby again your child is nervous too. Remember that they don’t have any experience to help make it easier. A little reassurance can go a long way.
Give your older child extra attention
One-on-one attention is crucial during the time leading up to birth and after. This can help combat the fear that you will love the new baby more; therefore, they won’t get any of your attention. The fact is people are telling your child this and you want to fight these outside influences.
Related: 15 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Parents with a Newborn
After your new baby arrives
Your actions in the first few weeks of your new baby’s arrival can be a major factor in how much your older kids will handle jealousy and other normal emotions. Here are a few things you can do to help make it easier on your older child.
A great way to make the arrival of a new baby a happy memory is to have the baby give your older child a gift. Choose something your child has been wanting to help make them feel special and wanted. A great option is to get something like a large LEGO set or art kit that can help keep your older child busy so they don’t feel so left out when you are spending a long period of time with the baby.
Make a point to spend plenty of one on one time with your older child. This helps combat the fears that you love the new baby more. Quality time with your oldest child is important. Even if it is just inviting them to help you cook dinner while the baby naps can help make your child feel loved. It also gives you two plenty of time to keep your body strong. A great way to get someone on one time with your oldest is to take them on a Mother-Daughter Date to go do something fun.