Help your kids adapt to a new arrival

A recurring theme among dads who take extended paternity leave is how helpful it is for bonding with and caring for older children, not just the newborn.

Toddler cuddles baby on a white bedsheet


One recurring theme among dads who have taken extended paternity leave or Shared Parental Leave is how helpful they found that time not just for bonding with their newborn but for connecting with older children.

In the early days babies don’t do a huge amount. Mum might need support after the birth. Dad might need some space to come to terms with the new family dynamic. But children also need to adapt to becoming a brother or sister. It can be exciting but also emotional and the whirlwind can even be a bit scary. Kirsty Prankerd, Managing Director of Write From The Heart, shares a few ways you can make your happy news a bit easier for your first-born to take.

Happy news

So, your partner is pregnant again — congratulations! You’re no doubt excited to share this happy news with your first-born child, considering how special having a sibling can be. Very young children probably won’t understand much of what is happening, but if you’re excited, they will be excited too.

However, children between the ages of two and four are especially attached to their parents and old enough to feel scared of what a new sibling will mean for your relationship. Unfortunately, this means they may be more reluctant to share with you if they’re not properly prepared and may suffer from feelings of abandonment and anxiety.

Add that to the stress of having a crying baby living with them, new rules about noise and sharing, and less attention from their parents, and it’s understandable how many children with new siblings demonstrate disruptive behaviour after the birth.

The good news is that the emotional impact of your partner’s pregnancy can usually be managed if you prepare your child for what’s to come, as well as include them in the preparations you are making for the new baby. Below, I’ll share some ideas for making sure your child is as excited as you are about the new arrival.

How to tell your first-born about their soon-to-be sibling

It’s important to be positive and demonstrate how exciting a new brother or sister can be. Try not to give off any feelings of nervousness, as kids can pick up on these easily. Instead, announce the happy news and have a little celebration, just the three of you. You could also discuss whether they think it will be a girl or boy, ask them for ideas about baby names, and point out how lucky they are to have new friend as well as a brother or sister. Depending on your child’s age and personality, they might even enjoy the idea of having a responsibility to protect their new sibling.

While positivity is key, it’s also important to be honest. If you sugar-coat what it’s like to have a new baby in the house too much, they may feel betrayed or disappointed once the baby arrives and it’s not what they expected. So, make sure you also explain that babies need a lot of attention and they cry a lot, but finish by saying you will always make time for them — and that the baby will soon grow up and be better behaved! It could help you bring out your first-born’s baby photos to help them relate to the situation.

Three ways you can keep them involved while preparing for the new arrival

If you’re worried about your little one feeling left out in the run up to the birth of your baby, here are three ways you can make sure they’re involved in the preparations. This will not only keep them busy, but potentially strengthen the bond they feel with their new brother or sister and head off any feelings of competition.

Ask them for gift ideas for when the baby is born
Before the baby is born, life can get busy. Your little one might feel helpless or ignored while everyone else is busy preparing. So, try giving your eldest the task of choosing an appropriate gift to give their new brother and sister when they meet for the first time. Planning their gift and seeing it as a celebration can help get them excited about the arrival — and you can reward them by buying them a new gift in return on the baby’s behalf.

Include them in photographs, keepsakes, and mementos
To help ease the transition after the birth of your child, it can help to take lots of photographs and have keepsakes and mementos made that include both of your children, so your eldest starts to see themselves and the new baby as a team rather than competition. For example, take a photo of the first time they held the new baby and frame it or turn it into a keyring. Or, have both of their names and dates of birth inscribed side by side onto a piece of jewellery.

Spend time with them after the baby is born
The truth about paternity leave is that you spend a lot of time waiting. So, when the baby is sleeping or if your partner is breast-feeding them, your attention is best spent bonding with your eldest chfild. Talk to them, play with them, take them with you when you run errands. Even just being in the same room as them as they play or watch a movie can help reduce feelings of abandonment.

These are just some of the ways you can ensure your child is excited about the birth of their new brother or sister. Bear them in mind and you can help keep the stress to a minimum.

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