Preparing the Older Child For the New Baby

Birth provides an opportunity for a child to learn about and share in a major life transition, and to develop new social skills and awareness.

Some parents worry a great deal about how to prepare an older child for the new baby. This problem can seem almost insurmountable if the older one is clinging and very dependent.

Childbirth educators have come up with the idea of making a book for such a child, with photographs of himself and starting with a simple description of how a baby grows inside its mother, complete with line drawings and a photograph of the mother when she was pregnant. You could show preparations for the birth, and then your child as a newborn baby, being suckled or bathed.

These pictures could be followed by a series of photographs of the older child eating, drinking, playing, helping in the house and yard. Perhaps the last page could be left blank for a photograph of the new baby. All this helps the older child to prepare for the new baby and to realize that he was once just as small and incapable as it will be.

If possible borrow a baby for a few hours or have a mother and her small baby in the house for half a day or so. This will help your child to confront the reality of a baby and also observe how a mother cares for it. Many older children expect a new baby to be either a passive bundle that can be handled like a doll or a playmate who can join in their games immediately.

If you are moving the older child from a crib to a bed, do so several months before the birth, so that it does not seem a consequence of the baby's arrival. And if you are going to have extra help after the birth, encourage the helper to become friends with the older child well before the advent of the new baby.

 When another baby is on the way, the relationship between the father and the older child is of great importance. It is a time when the two can draw closer together and enjoy each other's company for longer periods, something that will help you a great deal after the birth when you are busy with the new baby.

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