I was excited to tell my kids they were getting a baby sister. I was eager to see their reactions and field their questions. But, mostly, I was pumped to capture our candid conversation on camera... and, boy, am I glad I did! It was honest and hilarious and epic--and I seriously couldn't have scripted it any better if I tried. Kids really do say the darndest things.
After our initial tête-à-tête, I knew my six year old son and four year old daughter would have have lots of questions, expectations, and concerns--and that they did--everything from the big "but how does it come out?!" inquiry to the more subtle, "but who will tuck me in when you go to the hospital overnight?"
The pending arrival of a new sibling can be exciting, scary, and confusing for kids--even when they're old enough to grasp the general concept. But there are a few ways you can make this transitional time a little smoother and fill it with love and learning. Here are my top tips...
Talk About Expectations... a Lot
That Instagram video snippet was just the tip of the iceberg, and the kicking off point for many conversations about "what to expect... when Mommy's expecting." There are lots of expectations to manage--including your own, Mama. But it can be hard especially for little brains to process that the baby isn't arriving right away; that, depending on when you let the cat out of the bag, it may take months until the newbie makes his or her big debut.
I can tell you from personal experience that it's also difficult for my daughter to understand that Baby Sister won't come out ready to play Barbie and eat cake and do all sorts of fun things from the get-go. I show her pictures and videos of newborns to put things in perspective and constantly remind her that at first her new baby will just be a sleepy, crying blob. I explained that the baby can only have special milk for the first few months and that she can't walk or crawl or talk or even grasp toys. "But don't worry, Baby will be be fun soon. And then you'll be besties."
Get Them to Help
My daughter, Penelope, is incredibly excited to take on a mother's helper role. She wants to feed the baby and burp the baby and change the baby ("no poopies though") and make the baby coo and smile and giggle. Again, I remind her that, in the early days, Baby Sis won't be especially interactive; but, still, my little wannabe mama loves the idea of helping tend to our fam's new addition. That's why I took Penelope to the baby store with me to stock up on some essentials. I want her to be involved. So we picked out diapers and swaddles and outfits and binkies and bottles--so she could feel empowered in the decision making process. I know that once the baby comes, I won't be able to let her do everything she intends on doing--so I'll let her help when and how she can, so that she feels important... because as the Big Sis, she is important!
There are lots of sweet picture books that talk about welcoming a new sibling in sweet, sensitive, and moving ways. Snuggle up together and enjoy reading one-on-one with your littles. Here's one book we love.
Make Transitions in Advance
The arrival of a newborn will rock your world, it'll rock your kids 'worlds, and it'll rock your family's whole dynamic. That's why it's good to have some lead time for certain transitions. We decided, for example, to move my daughter from her toddler bed (which will transition back to a crib soon) to a regular full-size mattress-- and move her into a shared bedroom with her brother.
The transition hasn't been entirely smooth, but it's been a whole lot easier than I anticipated. They both love having company and it's adorable to spy in on their early morning conversations when they think no one is listening. I'll admit the bedtime struggle is real with two kids who would much rather play and jump from bed-to-bed than snuggle in for books and zzz's, but they're getting better about it. And I'm so glad I decided to make this change a few weeks ago rather than waiting for the baby to come. There will be enough adjustments to make in due time.
That said, while change is inevitable, some transitions can wait. Like I said, worlds will be rocked--so in the immediate weeks after Baby's arrival hold off on potty-training if you can, avoid any major childcare changes, if possible, and do your best to preserve some semblance of normalcy at home.
Have a Plan for Your Hospital Stay
If you normally aren't away from your children, you'll want to make sure they know that they'll be safe and cared for while you (and, potentially, your partner) are in the hospital. While a typical recovery-room stay is one to two nights, you might need to be there longer depending on type of birth (natural vs. cesarean) and/or any potential complications that could arise for you or your newbie.
Avoid taking the kids out of their comfort zone, if possible, and have a family member, friend, or sitter watch them in your home. Be prepared with lots of fun activities to make it an exciting few days and nights: crafts, baking projects, and pizza delivery will help! Finally, stay in communication. Facetime the kiddos so they see Mom is A-okay!
Set Up a Non-Intimidating First Visit
If you think your kids are old enough to visit hte hospital, set up a quiet time for them to come see you and meet their new sibling. Avoid a busy time of day when there's lots of hustle, bustle, and medical staff in your room; and try to keep other concurrent visitations to a minimum. Make this about the kids. Make this a special time for your new and growing family.
Get a Gift From the New Baby
A little bribery never hurt! Have "the baby" get a special gift for his or her new sibling--maybe some art supplies, building blocks, or dollies so that they can keep busy when Mommy is tied up.
This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are our own.