Whether it's your second child or your fifth, a new baby changes everything. Children's reactions to new members of the family can range from indifferent to ecstatic. They'll need help adjusting, but they can also be a big help when their new sibling arrives. Here are three ways you can make your little ones welcome the newest member of the family.
According to Flora Templeton Stuart, small toys and even stuffed animals can pose choking hazards, so it’s a good idea to get your children in the habit of cleaning up toys because, soon enough, your baby will start to move around and want to put everything in their mouth. Your pregnancy is the perfect time to create a designated play area and teach your kids how to clean up after themselves. It's not just for the baby, either. Life is much simpler when you're not tripping over abandoned toys and stepping on LEGOS.
Children are naturally energetic, but they need to learn to use quiet voices, especially while they're playing, and the newborn is asleep. Rather than blaming everything on the baby, e.g., “we have to be quiet because the baby is sleeping,” talk about the importance of indoor voices. You can teach your child that speaking quietly at home makes everyone feel calmer. It's OK to remind him or her that it's important to be quiet when the baby is asleep, but make sure that the focus is placed on his or her feelings too.
As The Child Mind Institute suggests, using a baby doll, young children can be taught how to use soft, gentle touches with their new sibling. Giving your child a doll with its own bottle and blanket can also help him or her practice care skills that he or she will see you use every day. By being able to take care of their own baby alongside you, your children will feel more included and prepared to take supervised turns with the real baby sooner. You could even start giving your child a doll to practice with before your baby is even born. That way, they might be able to be ready for a new baby sibling sooner, and will be more ready to help out when the time comes. Read books about welcoming new siblings, and allow your child to help you out whenever possible. Even just asking him or her to fetch you a diaper or burp cloth can make your child feel important.
Having a new baby can be both an exciting and stressful experience, but your other children can also be a big help when the baby arrives. Teach your child about all the things above to show your child how they can help with the baby. Show excitement about your new baby, but don't force your child to warm up before he or she is ready. With little steps and lots of love, your child will come around and be a proud big brother or sister.
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