“Mom, we don’t want a baby brother or sister!”
That’s the refrain you’ve been hearing from your 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter since you broke the news that you’re expecting. What’s behind their negative reactions?
“Often, older children’s feelings of jealousy are rooted in uncertainty about what to expect from a baby and how he or she will change their lives,” says Jill Johnson, R.N., M.S.N., L.C.C.E., coordinator of parent education at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. “Children may also resent that preparing for the baby diverts parents’ attention from them.”
Ready, Set, Baby!
How best to prepare your children for a little brother or sister depends, in part, on their ages, but certain steps may be helpful to parents of toddlers and school-age children alike. Try the following tips to increase their enthusiasm for the new roles they’re about to assume:
• Make your children members of Team Baby. Involve your children in newborn preparations by asking for their suggestions about baby names, letting them help decorate the nursery, or allowing them to choose special brother- or sister-to-baby gifts. Feeling invested in and valued as part of the pregnancy journey may help children embrace the idea of a new sibling.
• Schedule one-on-one alone time. Periodically, put baby thoughts and preparations aside and spend time with each of your children doing something they enjoy. Assure them you’ll love them just as much when the baby arrives. When your due date nears, give each of them a special gift to let them know how important they are to you.
• Show, don’t just tell. Use visual aids to reduce your children’s fears of the unknown. Show them your sonogram images, look at their baby books with them, tour the hospital’s labor and delivery unit together, and take them to visit friends or family members who have babies.
• Take your cues from your children’s questions. Be open to questions and use them to gauge how much information you should provide. Answer queries using language and concepts your children can understand.
“Older siblings should know that a baby is an addition to their lives, too, and that the relationship between older and younger siblings is special,” Johnson says. “This is new territory for your children. They need your help understanding their roles.”
Certain Texas Health hospitals offer Sibling Class, an event that allows big brothers- and sisters-to-be to learn about pregnancy and what it means to be an older sibling. To learn about class dates and locations, visit Texas Health’s Classes and Events.