Help Siblings Celebrate a New Baby
After nine years of parenting and now expecting our fifth child, my husband and I have been touched by how our older children have so warmly welcomed each new baby. Here are some of the traditions we have developed for making our new baby’s homecoming a family affair.
Include Big Bro or Big Sis in the anticipation. This might mean having your child accompany you in creating a baby registry, going to doctor’s appointments, or touring the hospital. Explain what you’re doing at each “planning event” and let your child participate. Perhaps he’ll choose a blanket for baby or get to listen to the heartbeat. Emphasize what a blessing it is that your family is growing and how important your child’s role will be as the big brother or sister.
Read baby stories. Choose picture books that celebrate the birth of a new little one. Focus on the positives of having a sibling. Our four boys have enjoyed Hello Baby! by Lizzie Rockwell (Random House Children’s Books, $6.99), Waiting for Baby by Harriet Ziefert (Henry Holt and Co., $16.95), and I’m a Big Brother or I’m a Big Sister by Joanna Cole (HarperCollins, $6.99).
Take a walk down memory lane. Our kids love it when we look through their scrapbooks. Pull out your older child’s baby book and recount the stories and excitement of when she was born. Discuss the pictures and the funny things that happened. Invite grandparents to join you in retelling the joy they felt at the birth of your older child. When you unpack the baby clothes, let your child help. Perhaps you have a special story to share about a certain outfit, blanket or toy that once belonged to him.
Count the days. We’ve tried to help our little guys visualize the due date by creating a paper chain that represents the number of days left in the pregnancy with a specially colored link at the end. This is best done during the final months so the chain isn’t too long. We tear off one link each day. While your due date may not be the actual day of birth, it is a close representation and will help everyone anticipate the Big Day.
Plan for the Birth-Day Party. Our older children have loved planning this celebration. First, at the grocery store, let your child choose a cake mix and a can of frosting. Buy fun baby-themed paper goods. Arrange for someone to help him bake and decorate a cake while you are at the hospital. When your older child comes to the hospital to visit you and the baby, he can bring the cake and party fixings, or you can celebrate when you and the baby arrive home.
When this tradition began for our family, our firstborn was three years old. He asked, “How old is our baby going to be?” I answered, “Zero, I guess.” He concluded, “Well, then we need a zero candle.” So we began giving our babies “zero” candles to signify their starting point.
Let the siblings “exchange” gifts. Our son knew the baby was getting lots of presents, and he wanted to join in, choosing a foot-shaped teething toy. Imagine his surprise when he learned that the baby had a little gift for him, too! It takes some planning to shop, wrap, and pack a gift for your older child in your hospital bag, but it reassures an older sibling who may no longer be the center of attention. It also can start a reciprocal relationship between siblings.
Don’t forget to take pictures. Your new baby’s birth story is a part of your older child’s life story as well. Be sure to record all the little ways that Big Bro or Big Sis has helped and waited for the little one. The happiness and excitement you generate together is a story to cherish.
Jessica Fisher a freelance writer.