How to Prepare Your Children for a New Sibling
So frequently parents come to me with concerns about how a second (or third, or fourth) child will impact the dynamic of their existing family. As someone who has been there, this is a topic very close to my heart and I think the introduction to a new sibling should be handled with delicacy, love, and with a lot of thought.
One of my favorite tricks, for both my family and for the families that I work with, is to introduce the idea of the older children serving as “mommy’s helper”.
I know that at first that may sound ridiculous. But I am by no means suggesting that we should have our older children cooking up some beef stroganoff for the family while dusting the picture frames on the mantelpiece! Instead, what I am suggesting and encouraging is that families incorporate them into caring for the new baby so they feel included and important — even when this doesn’t actually “help” the task at hand. Far too often a new baby is brought home and suddenly the older child begins to feel completely left out as our attentions understandably go towards the new baby 24/7. As a parent, it is so important to make sure this doesn’t happen. Adopting the “mommy’s helper” strategy is a perfect way to make sure that your older children get your attention and get to be involved every day
For example, during baby’s bath time, you can ask your older children to handle (gently!) the cleaning of baby’s legs. Of course, bath time will probably be a lot slower as your toddler helps to dab your baby’s foot with a washcloth, but having your child involved in the daily responsibilities of the family will go a long way to helping the well-being of your family. Your older child won’t feel left out and will be a lot happier for being included. And we all know that happier kids means happier parents.
The concept of mommy’s little helper is important for even the youngest of children. With the correct supervision you should let them touch (very gently) the new baby. Older siblings can even be able to pass you bottles, wipes and hold the baby with assistance while seated. You have to figure out what they enjoy and what is safe for them to be involved in but the key word here is “involved”.
I’d love to hear the ways in which you have helped your older ones become “Mommy’s little helpers”.