One particularly hilarious scene in the recent DreamWorks animated comedy, Baby Boss would have resonated with many of the parents who had taken their children along to see the film. The father and heavily pregnant mother of the main character ask him how he would feel about having a baby brother. “No thanks,” the child cheerfully replies, “we’re fine as we are.”
It’s all too easy for parents to get carried away with the excitement that surrounds growing their family and, as a result, to neglect spending sufficient time preparing siblings for the new arrival. Sometimes this is the direct result of concerns over how to break the news and whether they will find themselves dealing with jealousy or resentment.
In reality, children of different ages tend to have different reactions to the news of a new sibling. Understanding the key concerns of each age group can make it easier to find the best way to break the news.
Use the right language
It’s important to discuss your pregnancy with your child, but also important to ensure you do so using terms that make sense, according to the level of understanding that child possesses. For example, very young children may struggle with the concept of time and expect the baby to arrive instantly, rather than a few months.
Once you have used a due date calculator to work out when your baby is going to arrive, you make it easier for your existing child to grasp the timing by making references to the closest seasons, such as winter or fall, or holidays, such as Christmas or Thanksgiving.
Share the excitement
Children who are less than two years old may not fully grasp the concept of a new brother or sister. In such cases, it’s best to focus on feeling and emotions. Make it clear just how excited and happy you are about what is happening. Although your child may not understand what is behind such excitement, the attitude will rub off, and your child will soon become every bit as excited as you are.
Older pre-school children can be especially sensitive to change so need to be handled with care. A wide variety of picture books are available that can be extremely useful when it comes to answering sensitive questions. Older children can also be made to feel more involved in the process if you ask them to help out with choosing baby items or furniture.
Older children may understand more about what is happening, but this does not mean they are any less threatened by the situation. The key here is to communicate with them clearly, providing a steady stream of reassurance that, while your attention may be totally focused on the baby in the short term, this is only a temporary state of affairs.
When your new baby arrives, do everything you can to reassure your existing child that they are still loved every bit as much as before. You might want to give your child a special gift, or treat them to quality time with a beloved grandparent – anything to demonstrate the fact that their position within the family is not threatened by the new arrival.