Bringing a new baby into the family is a huge gift but also a huge adjustment for all in the home. The best moments in my life have been introducing my newborn babies to their siblings. Having just delivered my fourth little love, these moments become more and more precious as we build our family. There is nothing like the love between siblings but it must be cultivated from the very moment you announce the pregnancy. Children have a tendency to be self-centered so it's important to make that new baby an important part of their world.
As a mother of four, I've learned by experience that involving the siblings in preparation is important. I like to take my older ones shopping for things we will need for the new addition. They can pick out an outfit or a baby rattle but I make sure they think hard and long about what the new baby will like. This starts the process of getting them to think about the baby and not so much about themselves. Once we get home from shopping, they put their treasure in a gift bag for the new baby so they can bring it to the hospital when baby arrives.
Encouraging your children to talk to the baby in utero is another great way to start that relationship. When I was expecting my second baby, my oldest child used to talk to her right up against my belly and when the baby kicked she would giggle and I'd say the baby was playing with her. Holding your child's hand against your belly to feel the baby move helps them understand that the baby is real and playful.
Little ones understand much more than people think so it's good to answer questions (at a child's level of understanding) and have them interact with the baby. Once the baby arrives, it is so very important to watch your tone of voice and movements around the baby. My children pick up on everything I do so I try to always talk quietly and move slowly around the baby. I try not to yell at them for touching the baby even if it is a little rough, I correct them gently so there is no room for resentment. I always ask the kids if they want to help change the baby's diaper and then give them menial tasks like handing me the wipes or the diaper and then complement them profusely for helping the baby. As difficult as bath time is with a slippery little newborn, I always have my helpers to squeeze the soap on the washcloth or wash the baby's toes. From my experience, I have learned that the more interaction the kids can have with the baby the more they love on them and treat them with care.
Of course these are just little ways that I have found to cultivate and grow that sibling relationship but there are many other ways as well. I think it is important to start encouraging love and respect from the first moments so that it isn't such a shock when the baby comes home for the first time. There is nothing as sweet as sibling love.
- Contributing Editor,
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