I remember that when I was due with baby #4 my son, our 3rd child, would go around the house, with arms crossed, saying “Don’t want a brother.” Yet, most of the time he lovingly kissed my huge belly and said “I love you baby” and he couldn't resist wanting to hold other little babies that we met. I wasn't not too worried about this behavior, mostly because I had seen child #1 and child #2 in our family follow a similar behavior pattern before the next baby arrived.
As a matter of fact, many of the mothers that I have spoken to about this topic agree that most older siblings go through an adjustment period when a newborn sibling arrives. The family spends time preparing for the new baby and once the baby arrives so much time is dedicated to just meeting baby's needs. That’s a lot of change taking place!
I asked some of my friends and other moms what advice seemed to work best when helping older siblings adjust to a new baby in the house. The suggestions are most helpful for children up to the pre-teen years.
Tip 1: Discuss Pregnancy In Terms That Makes Sense To Kids
- Read books about pregnancy, birth and newborns with your child. Check out your local library or bookstore for age-appropriate books you may enjoy with your child.
- Take out your child’s ultrasound and newborn pictures – they will love looking at them! Tell them about their birth – how excited you were and how everyone wanted to hold them.
- Tell your child about the pregnancy when you tell your friends. You want them to hear the good news from you.
- Young children may not grasp when the baby will arrive, so it may be useful to explain that baby will arrive in a particular season (when it’s cold outside) or after a major holiday.
Tip 2: Include Children In Baby Preparations
- Allow your child to help you pack your hospital bag.
- Visit friends who have infants.
- You may or not want to take your child for your doctor visits, but consider taking them to hear the baby’s heartbeat and see the ultrasound.
- Check with your local hospital for sibling preparation classes.
- Perhaps they can help you pick out a special coming outfit (from two you’ve preselected, of course).
- You may want to buy your toddler age child a baby doll and have them practice holding and gently touching the doll, just like they would with their newborn sibling.
- Allow your child to pick out a small toy or other gift that they can give to their newborn sibling when they meet for the first time.
Tip 3: Make Arrangements To Meet Older Sibling's Needs
- Make sure that major changes – weaning, toilet training, a new room – happen well before the baby arrives.
- For older children, explain to them that the baby will not be able to do much at first, that you may feel tired and the baby will require a lot of your time.
- Arrange for play dates outside your home for your child with close friends or relatives, if possible, soon after the baby arrives.
- Try to keep routines as normal as possible in the weeks around baby’s arrival.
- Try to have your child meet the new baby as soon as possible after the big arrival. It’s best to do this when only the immediate family is at the hospital.
- Let your child “help” with age appropriate tasks once the baby arrives – like getting diapers, feeding, helping dress the baby, or pushing the stroller.
- If possible, arrange for some one-on-one time with your child once baby arrives where you talk about things besides the new baby.
- It’s ok for your child to need time to take adjust the new baby. You can encourage older children to talk about their feelings about their new sibling.
- Younger children who may not be able to articulate their feelings may act up or test the rules, but stand firm – just understand the feelings behind their behavior. Make it clear that you understand their feelings, but that their feelings must be expressed in appropriate ways.
- You may want to consider having a small present for your young child when they come to meet the baby for the 1st time – a small gift from the baby to the child.
Tip of the Week
You just dropped the little one off at school, your husband’s car broke, so you just dropped him off too. The to do list begins: grocery store, home to unload the groceries, clean house, back to school to pick the little one up, help with homework, get dinner, bath time, and so on. Did I for get to mention work in the midst of the chaos that you call your day? That’s life for most of us.
How can we simplify our over-scheduled and crazy day to day lives? Well, it’s hard! In most American homes, both parents work, leaving less time to do the day to day activities of keeping your house and family in order. In general, we spend less time together as a family.
In my house, one of the most important parts of our insanely crazy days is dinner time. It is one of the few times we re-connect as a family. When you start to break down communication as a family, you start to run into problems. We need to check in once in a while and take inventory of how our kids’ and spouses lives are, and you’re your own. When you slow down to talk about your day or week, it’s easier to stay connected.
So, “how,” you may ask, “do I get dinner on the table after my crazy day and still have time to re-connect?” I realize that getting dinner on the table is itself a task at times. This does not mean you should be calling the nearest pizza place or stopping at the golden arches on your way home. You – yes you – can make a relatively healthy, easy meal in a short amount of time. Here are a few things I make when times are crunched, but I want to have something kind of healthy to offer the family:
Bean and cheese quesadillas with fruit on the side
Take 2 tortillas (whole wheat (for finer) if your family will have it. Spread one side with a low fat refried bean (black or pinto work well). Sprinkle cheese and put the other tortilla on top. In a frying pan on medium heat – no oil or butter needed – put your quesadilla down, flip it till the tortilla is brown and everything is meted and warmed. Serve with a side of fruit and salsa. Voila…dinner in 5 minutes!
This works because the many households have cheese, tortillas and canned beans on hand. The beans offer a ton of fiber and protein which means your meal will be more filling. The cheese is just plain good, but it offers a bit of calcium. The fruit and salsa round the meal off.
Mini Turkey Meatloaves
Take ½ pound of lean ground turkey. Add a liberal amount of steak seasoning (I use Montreal Steak Seasoning – probably around 2 tablespoons) and Worcestershire sauce (about 1 tablespoon). Add ¼ c dried breadcrumbs and one whisked up egg. Combine it together with your hands and divide it into 3 or 4. Free form it into mini loaves. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Top with a mixture of ketchup and BBQ sauce (just combine equal parts), and bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with a side of steamed veggies and bread or rice.
This works because ground turkey is typically lean, but a great source of protein. The flavor comes from the ingredients you add, not the meat. Rounding it off with a yummy veggie and starch such as bread or rice makes it a meal. My kids love the meatloaves because I make them just their size. I like them because I can whip them together in no time, and give the kids a bath while they are baking!
My Favorite Chicken Marinade
I usually throw in a handful of fresh thyme leaves, fresh sage leaves, juice of 1 lemon and its’ lemon zest, salt, pepper, and olive oil (enough for how much chicken you are using). Salt and pepper each side of your chicken, and place it in this marinade for 15-30 minutes and thrown on the grill, or in a baking dish and bake off. You can also make the marinade, add the chicken and throw it in the freezer to use later. Just thaw out and use accordingly.
- On days you have a tiny bit of extra time, make meals that you can freeze. Just be sure to prepare them properly and seal them up good to prevent contamination in your freezer, and so your food doesn’t get freezer burned.
- Good Frozen Dinner Meals: mini meatloaves (see recipe above), lasagna (pick your favorite recipe and make 2!), pasta sauce, etc. All these meals can usually be taken out in the morning and thrown into the oven when you get home. When it comes to the meatloaves, you are better off thawing them in the fridge.
- Good Frozen Breakfast Meals: pancakes and waffles (when I make these for the kids on the weekend, I double or triple the batch and reheat them from the freezer in the microwave)
I hope this gets you started. Just remember that sitting down for dinner as a family to re-connect does not mean you have to be a stop at the drive through. With a few ingredients from your pantry and a little creativity, you can whip up easy go to meals in a pinch. Enjoy and slow down!