Preparing Children for the New Baby

IMAGE Welcoming a new baby into the home is one of the most exciting events in a family's life, or is it? The feelings of expectant parents about the new addition to the family are quite different than those of their children.Some children anticipate the arrival of the new baby with excitement and adjust well to their new brother or sister. For others, the adjustment to a new sibling can be a traumatic event. As a parent, what can be done to help young children share in the excitement of their new brother or sister? According to T. Berry Brazelton, MD. in his book Touchpoints— The Essential Reference, "Learning to live with others in a family is one of the most important learning opportunities that anyone can have." Therefore, parents can use the situation of a new sibling to teach their children valuable lessons that can affect their current family, as well as the child's future family. Teaching them to enjoy, accept, and be responsible for others is possibly one of the most valuable lessons children can learn.

The Key to Adjustment: Plenty of Preparation

Simple preparation, including teaching and giving support, can make the difference between positive memories and traumatic nightmares. Charles, a father of four boys, states, "We allowed the boys to participate in the preparation and care of their new brothers. Now, when they look at pictures or we talk about the birth of the boys, they have many fun stories to share. We hope we have taught them through these experiences to genuinely care for others."It is important to remember that each child is unique; therefore, one must always consider the child's age, temperament, and other developmental factors when determining the best approach.Begin by preparing children for the changes that will occur when the new sibling arrives. Good communication is key. The child should hear the good news directly from his parents. Ana Maria, a 27-year-old mother, began preparing her four-year-old daughter Alicia by commenting on the neighborhood children who had positive relationships with younger brothers and sisters. "Alicia was used to being an only child, so she was suspicious about what it would be like to have a new brother or sister. But when we began talking about her friend Maria next door who had brothers and sisters, Alicia changed her mind and decided that a new baby might actually be fun to have around."However, remember that the power of suggestion should be used carefully, as it can quickly become reality in the minds of children: do not mention to the child that she might not like her new brother or sister. Instead, discuss the fun opportunities she will have as a big brother or big sister.Another important part of a child's adjustment is to be secure in her own relationships before the baby arrives. These relationships may be with other family members or caregivers. Leaving your child alone with trusted family members or babysitters will help him see that others can care for him in addition to mom and dad.

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