A new arrival in the family

Published by Sarah Horrocks
Published on 25 June 2008

It’s not always easy for a youngster to become a big brother or sister and accept a new arrival into the family. From the announcement of the pregnancy to the arrival of the baby, here is some advice to help your child welcome a new baby into the family.

The right moment
Don't announce your pregnancy to a child as you would to the rest of your family or friends. Finding the right time to tell your child isn't easy. It depends a lot on their agee: a young child has difficulty mastering the concept of time, so there's no point saying anything too early. However, associating it with the seasons will help a child situate the arrival: for example, say the baby will be here after Christmas or in the summertime. It's better not to wait too long before breaking the news. Children are very perceptive and can develop feelings of panic faced with the changes that are occurring in the family.

The right words
What you choose to tell your child depends a lot on age and level of comprehension. But whatever you say, choose a quiet moment and explain things very simply. Pregnancy is an extremely abstract concept for a child and a baby growing in mum's stomach doesn’t have a lot to do with a real baby. Talk about the baby like a real little person that he can take care of and play with, to make it seem more real.

Curiosity
You can also attract attention to the arrival of a new baby by choosing appropriate stories. Children, especially when they are young, have less difficulty understanding things if they can link them to reality. If some of their friends have little brothers or sisters, or are about to have one, talk about it with them. Seeing other babies can help children get used to the idea of a new arrival to look after and play with, rather than a new baby who will take their place and get all mummy and daddy's attention.

Anticipate the feeling of abandonment
Each child reacts differently to the announcement of a new baby: they may be happy or totally indifferent. Don’t worry too much about it: it takes time. However, children are quick to understand that their everyday life will be disrupted by the arrival of a new baby (and work is already underway in the baby's room!). Children may feel neglected and abandoned, and this feeling will only be heightened when the baby arrives. This is why it’s important to reassure and explain, simply, the changes that will happen.

Stop jealousy
Your child will soon understand that he or she will no longer be at the centre of your world, and that they will have to share your time with the new baby. they can develop feelings of jealousy towards the newcomer who steals your affections. Reassure and explain that you will love them just as much. Don’t waste any opportunities to spend time alone with them. You may find a young child may regress into baby-like behaviour (crying, crawling, demanding bottles and not wanting to use the toilet). Explain their new role as big brother or siser, and say how proud you are of them so they feel valued.

Ease anxiety
Even if a child really struggles to understand what having a baby growing in your tummy means, he or she will certainly notice the physical changes that you are going through! A mum who is often tired, sometimes feels unwell, changes shape and mood for no reason won't go unnoticed and the changes may seriously worry your child. Explain what’s happening is normal and explain who will take care of him of her when you go into hospital to give birth.

Get your children involved in the preparations
If you need to change rooms to make way for the new baby, do it well before the birth so that your children don't feel that their room has been stolen! Make this transition exciting by involving them in getting baby's room ready. Let them help decorate and arrange clothes and toys. This will reinforce your relationship but will also help your children find their place and get used to their role as elder brother or sister.

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