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How to get your children excited about the new arrival
Barbara Freedman De Vito

The sudden appearance of a new baby can be rough on the 
other children in the family. Daily routines are disrupted and 
suddenly mom and dad are too busy to pay attention to 
older siblings. Worst of all, the new baby is the instant star 
of the family - the center of attention. The adorable baby is 
the big attraction for everyone from mom and dad, to visiting 
relatives, to casual acquaintances bumped into at the mall, 
right down to strangers on the street. Everyone is talking 
baby talk, cooing at the new baby, and making a fuss over 
the newborn. The older kids may feel shunted aside and 
resentful. This is especially true for the displaced former 
baby of the family.

Given these natural reactions, anything that you can do to 
prepare your other children for the new arrival will ease the 
transition. Everything you can do to involve your kids in 
advance and to get them to actually look forward to the birth 
will make a big difference in how they experience it. It might 
even help establish a stronger brother or sister bond with 
the new baby that will contribute to the lasting closeness of 
a positive sibling relationship.

Here are some simple ideas that expectant parents might 
try, to smooth the road ahead for their other children. Most 
are common knowledge or simply common sense, but 
sometimes too easily forgotten amid all the excitement and 
activity surrounding the birth of a new baby. A few might be 
new ideas that are worth a try. A little advance thought and 
preparation may go a long way towards making the 
"blessed event" a blessing for the ENTIRE family. Hopefully, 
you'll be inspired to try some of these ideas, so here goes.

Let your other kids in on the secret as soon as the 
pregnancy is confirmed, well before it is obvious just by 
looking at mom. Even with your youngest children, try to give 
them some understanding of the changes that mom is 
going through and what they mean. Check out your local 
public library. It should have books geared to all different 
ages that can explain, in terms that children can 
understand, the biological process of having a baby. Picture 
books about baby animals may also help crystalize the 
concept and relate it to something your kids have already 
experienced, like watching newborn kittens, for example.

The library or local bookstore should also be able to 
guide you to works of fiction, including picture books for 
preschoolers, that focus on the arrival of a new baby in the 
family and such issues as jealousy and feelings of neglect. 
Quiet parent-child story reading times can provide an ideal 
opportunity to prepare young children for changes that are 
on the way and to reassure them of their own importance 
and irreplaceable position in the family. Discuss things 
openly and answer your kids' questions.

Encourage your children to think about life with the new 
baby and how family routines will be altered. Coax your kids 
to develop their own lists of things that will be fun about 
having a new baby in the house - for example, they can push 
the baby carriage and help dress the baby. Help them think 
about all the things that they'll be able to share with and 
teach the baby as he or she grows up and how important 
their role will be as a "big brother" or "big sister".

At other times, let them focus on coming up with ways that 
they can help care for the baby or have them think of things 
they can do around the house to ease the burden on mom 
and dad. Also, take this opportunity to make your kids aware 
that babies require gentle handling and a quiet 
environment. You might even use a baby doll with your 
younger children to role play baby's diaper changing and 
feeding.

Nurture the feeling that every family member is of equal 
importance and that each occupies a special niche and has 
special contributions to make. No one is being replaced by 
the baby and the family cannot be whole unless EVERYONE 
is a part of it. If your kids internalize this belief, you may be 
able to avoid some of the trauma and the understandable 
resentment toward this little stranger who has stolen 
mommy and daddy's hearts. The better your children are 
prepared for the impending event, the better they'll be able to 
cope with it emotionally.

As part of that preparation process, from time to time plan 
special activities with your kids that relate to babies. For 
example, they might draw pictures of babies or collect baby 
photos from magazines and create a collage. Sit down and 
go through photo albums of your kids' baby pictures and 
reminisce with them about their own arrivals into the world. 
Re-tell any family anecdotes surrounding their births. Teach 
your children lullabies that they can sing to the baby, plus 
finger games and "peek-a-boo" games to entertain their 
new brother or sister.

Arts and crafts projects can furnish a special parent-child 
discussion and sharing time and may sometimes revolve 
around preparations for the new baby. Kids can make 
pictures to hang in the baby's room, or create a baby-safe 
mobile to hang over the baby's crib, or draw scenes in which 
they imagine their lives with the new baby - rocking the baby 
in their arms, and so forth.

Let the kids be involved in every facet of the preparations 
that you yourself are making for the baby's arrival. Your kids 
can help you repaint the nursery or paint a mural on the 
nursery wall, and help you pick out baby furniture, bedding 
and nursery decorations. They can choose baby clothes that 
appeal to them. All of these things can later give the 
children 
pride and a sense of importance and inclusion in the baby's 
life. When grandma says "What a cute bib the baby's 
wearing," your preschooler can say "I picked it!"

In addition, make your children key members of the family 
committee that chooses a name for the new baby. Keep the 
kids involved and actively participating and then, as the birth 
becomes imminent, dad and the kids may even conspire to 
prepare some extra, special, secret surprises for mom and 
the baby, like buying or creating a special keepsake item or 
putting together a "welcome home" party.

In short, it's always worth the effort to do as much as you 
can to get your kids involved in and excited about the arrival 
of a new baby. Include them in every step of the process. 
The more they feel that it is THEIR baby, too, the more 
positive their attitudes will be towards the baby. In this way, 
you can try to minimize the natural insecurities and feelings 
of jealousy that go with the territory.

The suggestions mentioned in this article can help lay the 
groundwork for good sibling relationships but, of course, 
you can't rest on your laurels once the baby is born. After the 
baby arrives, try to do everything you can to set aside some 
special time each day that's just for you and each of your 
other children. Offer them special little treats or outings or 
surprises, and encourage grandma and grandpa to do the 
same. To reduce jealousy, give your kids pride in the things 
that they CAN do that the baby can't do, like dressing 
themselves or enjoying a movie or reciting their ABCs. 
Continue along the path that you started on months earlier - 
reassure your kids that each of them is just as important as 
the baby is, so that they won't feel that they must compete for 
your love and attention.

Good luck and oh, by the way, congratulations!

Articles

Barbara Freedman-De Vito is a professional storyteller and artist. Visit Kids T-Shirts, children's clothing, and adult's clothes decorated with pictures and words

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