When our friends first found out that we’re having baby no. 3, some immediately asked if our two kids already knew about it too.
And I told them, ‘Yep. They’re in fact amongst the first five people we shared the big news with. We shared the news when the four of us had our family dinner together.’
Then afterwards, I usually get asked, ‘And how did you guys tell them?’
Well, you see, BEFORE we shared the ‘baby news’, I did subtly introduce to kids the topic of having baby no. 3 in the family (ie. when we ‘planned’ to have baby no.3).
I casually (and randomly) talked about the kids’ friends whose families have 3 kids.
We chatted about how in such families, kid no.1 and kid no. 2 play an important role in helping the family, esp. the mom. How the older siblings get to do ‘bigger’ kids’ activities around the house to help out. How if THAT happened to OUR FAMILY, Anya would then be the BIG BIG sister, and Vai would be the BIG BROTHER. How I would really APPRECIATE it whenever they support me and help around the house, etc.
So, when we actually broke THE baby news, it wasn’t a ‘total shock’ to the kids.
And I guess it’s because they have sort of been … gradually ‘prepared’ for it.
[And I noticed how such 'preparations' HELP a lot in creating a more positive reaction amongst the kids!]
I did similar ‘preparations’ when we planned for baby no. 2 (ie. when Anya was about 20 months old and I was pregnant with Vai).
We did, said and introduced certain things BEFORE and AFTER the ‘new baby’ was born.
Because, really, I believe that the relationship between siblings is one that needs to be continually nurtured. From the very, VERY start.
Anyway, here’re some of the things that we did BEFORE the birth of the ‘new’ baby in the family:
- Bring the kids to prenatal visits
- Let them actually see the ’monitor’ (ie. the baby!) when the doctor does the scan
- Re-tell the stories of how THEY were born and how they were like when they were babies themselves
- Show videos / pictures (on DVDs, websites or pregnancy books) on how the baby is growing in the womb (note: We carefully avoid ‘gory’ and ‘inappropriate’ images)
- Read children books / watch children DVDs where there’s a new baby in the family
[When I was pregnant with Vai, Anya asked to watch Dora the Explorer DVD every day, the episode where Dora just had a little baby brother and sister!]
- Let the kids imagine how things will be when the new baby is home (eg. Anya told me how she’d want to carry the baby while sitting on the sofa or on our bed, and Vai told me how he’d want to help and get diapers for baby). Often, I’ll be the one who create the scenario and guide the conversation so it’ll remain positive.
- Introduce ideas / positive values / advantages of being the big sister / the big brother (eg. the one who’ll be able to protect and look out for the baby, etc)
- Let kids gently touch / kiss the tummy, talk and sing to baby, ask questions, etc.
And here’s one thing that we do NOT say to the older sibling(s) during pregnancy:
‘I can’t carry you anymore because of the baby in my tummy‘
Personally I believe that saying such things unconsciously introduces the older sibling to unnecessary bitterness / resentment. The older child may feel ‘displaced’ because of the new baby.
So instead, I’d say something like,
‘Daddy will carry you when you really are tired and need to be carried, and I’ll hug and cuddle up with you when we’re sitting down and when I’m in bed because I’m easily tired now.’
Or, ‘My tummy is much bigger now and if I carry you, my tummy hurts. Come, let’s walk and I’ll hold your hand, okay …‘
Or, ‘Oh, wow, you walked all by yourself just now! You’re such a helpful big brother!‘
As best as I can, I try to put the emphasis on ME (when I can’t do certain things because of my pregnancy), and NOT on the baby. I avoid saying things that will make the older sibling feel he/she is ‘disadvantaged’ (or losing out) BECAUSE OF the baby.
[With older siblings above 4yo, I feel it's somewhat easier to explain the facts that I can't do certain things with them because I am pregnant]
All the above of course does not mean the older siblings will immediately bond and fall in love with the baby, as such a relationship and bond is something that we parents need to continually nurture and encourage.
There will still be quarrels, disagreements and complaints between siblings.
BUT one thing I can say for sure is, when we do our best in preparing the older siblings for the baby, it DOES make a difference.
A positive difference.