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Preparing Your Older Children for a New Baby

When you have older children, the news that a new baby is on the way may be met with excitement, jealousy, anger, disinterest or any number of other emotions. Preparing your older children for a new baby is a process – one that begins when you announce your pregnancy to them and only ends when the new baby has been fully integrated into the family.

When you tell your older children that a new baby is on the way will depend a lot on the ages of the older children. You may want to wait until after the first trimester is over or you may want to wait until you’re showing. Younger children will do better if, instead of giving them a date, you give them a time frame they can relate to, such as Christmas or another major holiday.

Your older children may ask questions about how the baby got into your stomach or where babies come from. Deal with these questions in an honest, age appropriate and consistent manner. Children ask the same questions again and again, and getting the same answers gives them a sense of security.

Depending on the age of your older children, they may enjoy going to your health care provider with you for a chance to hear the baby's heart beat or to see the baby on an ultrasound. You can also involve them in choosing things for the baby. Enforce the fact that the new baby is an addition to the family and will not replace the existing family members. Talk about the new role of big sister or big brother that your older child will be filling. Find out of the hospital or birthing center where you will deliver holds sibling birth classes. These can help the older children feel important to the process.

It’s also important to refer to labor as hard work and not as painful. If your older children think the new baby is hurting you, they may resent the new baby. Consider letting your older children tour the place where you will be giving birth. This may help them accept your time away from them more easily.

As much as you can, let your older children choose who will care for them while you’re giving birth and let the older children see you as soon as practical after the new baby is born. Ideally, you should greet them without the new baby and then introduce them to the new baby. If the new baby just “happens” to have a present for their new siblings, so much the better.

Once the new baby is at home, let the older children help you as much as they want. Their “help” may mean that it takes longer to do some things, but it’s worth it for them to feel like they’re still a part of the family.

Finally, be sure to spend some time with the older children without the new baby. Make sure the older children know that you love them just as much as you did before the baby arrived. Reward them with praise when they’re exhibiting the kind of behavior you want to encourage, such as being helpful or loving toward the new baby.

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