Here are some suggestions about how to handle the arrival of a new baby:
- Don't tell your children that they're getting a new playmate. Playmate may be true at some point in the future, but not for now. Don't give your kids any expectations that as soon as their little brother or sister gets home, life will become instant fun — because it won't be. Newborns don't do much to entertain, other than spitting up every now and then.
- Don't forget to recognize that your children are special to you, just like the new baby will be. Do something special. Give them a gift "from the new baby," or make them a special T-shirt so that they know they're still special in your eyes.
- Don't neglect your older children. Make an effort to do something with them after the baby comes. This activity is something you'll have to schedule. Having a new baby in the house can swallow up a large amount of time before you know it. Continue to share "dates" with your children.
- Give them an honest idea of what life will be like when the baby comes. Tell them that at first the baby will demand a large amount of time and that little brother or sister will mostly just cry, eat, sleep, and not a whole lot more. Also let them know that Mommy will be tired and will have to take naps to rest.
- Call your local hospital to see whether a sibling class is offered for your children to take. These classes go over what babies like and dislike, what it's like to change a diaper, and other basic information that your children need to know. They must learn that it isn't okay to toss a Tonka truck into the crib with baby.
- See whether your local hospital has a sibling class that you can take with your children. These classes give you a general idea of how your children may act with a sibling around and offer some things that you can do to prevent them from being jealous.
- Get your kids involved with the preparation and arrival of the new baby. Ask for their help. Have them draw pictures to put in the baby's room, pack the diaper bag (after you lay all the stuff out), and fetch diapers or bottles for you. Getting your kids involved with the baby helps them feel more like a part of the baby's life.
After you've done this preparation, how are your children going to act toward the new sibling? That depends on your children and their level of maturity. When you take a "new sibling" class, you'll find that behavior usually is sorted out by age. Normally, a 2-year-old is expected to show anger or jealousy toward a newborn while an 8-year-old may be exhilarated. But that isn't always the case.
You may find that you have to keep an extra eye on your 2-year-old who wants to help you by carrying or picking up the baby — while your 8-year-old suddenly seems to be angry with you for no apparent reason. Whatever the ages of your children, they may experience increased bouts of crying, temper tantrums, and regressions (such as bedwetting, acting like they can't feed themselves, wanting to be carried when they're fully capable of walking, and so on). You may find that your younger children actually try to take the baby out of your hands so they can crawl into your lap. These actions usually are signs that your children aren't being heard and need your attention.
Excerpted from Parenting For Dummies, 2nd Edition™, published by Wiley Publishing, Inc.
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