Preparing Your Older Children for Baby's Homecoming
Bringing a new baby home can upset older brothers and sisters. Chances are, you have spent large amounts of time away from your older children while visiting your baby in the NICU. This loss of attention can make your children worry, and feel angry or jealous. They may also feel your own stress and become upset.
Children younger than six years old are more likely to find it hard to accept the new baby, and they may act up because they want more attention from you.
Here are some tips to help your other children get used to having a new baby in their home:
- Help the children to talk about their feelings. They may be afraid that no one will take care of them, now that the new baby requires so much care and attention. Tell them that you are there for them, as well as for the new baby.
- Bring your children to the NICU to visit the new baby. Many units do not allow children to visit for the safety of the babies in the unit but there may be exceptional circumstances and this can be discussed with the nurse manager in the unit.
- If the children are worried about the new baby coming home, explain that it will be better for them, as you won't have to go to the hospital and leave them with baby-sitters anymore.
- Bring pictures of your newborn home, and put them where the children can look at them often.
- Take pictures of the siblings to the NICU and place them near your baby's bed, so that the children see them when they visit. This will help them to realise that they are all part of the same family.
- Talk with the children about how they can help make the baby be a part of the family, e.g. singing to them and sharing teddies with them.
- Pointing out all of the things your older child can do for themself that the baby cannot (dress himself, drink from a cup) will help them feel grown up and special.
- Buy a small gift for the child and say it is a present from the new baby.
- Tell your child how important they are to you.
Tips from Parents for Helping Siblings Adjust to the New Baby
Parents have suggested these ways to help your other children during the homecoming months:
Perhaps promise the children that you will have a family day at home following the babys discharge and have some special treats and discourage other visitors on that day. Ask the children what they would like to do on that special day.
If it is hard for you to give all the attention to your other children , ask a close friend, relative or favourite baby-sitter to spend some time with them.
Young brothers and sisters may start acting up or acting like babies when the new baby comes home: They might have more "accidents" if recently potty-trained, or they may go back to sucking their thumbs.
Try not to get upset about this and don't punish them, because your children are just trying to tell you they need your attention and love. Before long, they will feel safe again and they will get back to normal.
Remind siblings that you love them just as much as you did before the baby came home and try to provide them with special one-on-one time (for instance, during breakfast or when the baby is sleeping).
Talk to your children about how your family loves their new baby, but do not expect them to show love right away.
Be careful about what you say in front of your children. They often hear more than you think they do.
Try to keep the day-to-day family life the way it was before the baby came home (naps, bedtime, meals, and other activities).
Tell their teachers so they know what is going on at home so they will understand.
Let your children care for the baby as much as possible. They can hold their baby brother or sister and help with things like changing the baby's nappies and clothes.
Remember that keeping your premature baby's brothers and sisters involved takes a lot of patience, but it will soon begin to pay off.
Reprinted with permission from "Your Premature Baby and Child" by Amy E. Tracy and Dianne I. Maroney (Berkley, 1999).