Adding a new member to your family always comes with many adjustments. If you have older children, they too will need to adjust, whether they're still practically babies themselves or are several years older. For many families, finding a new rhythm with their older children can be a stressful part of the postpartum period. So how can parents equip their older children for the adjustment to a new sibling?
Be sure to introduce your children to the baby prior to the birth. Children of all ages can understand the presence of a baby inside the womb, especially if they get the chance to feel kicks, sing songs, read stories, and any other thing a child might enjoy doing with a younger sibling after they're born. One of the sweetest things I've seen as a doula is an older brother talking to his mother's belly, asking the baby if he was ready to "pop." Give your children the chance to bond before the birth, and they'll be excited to meet their newest sibling when the day comes.
For younger children, reading picture books about welcoming a new baby is a great place to start. This gives them the chance to get acclimated to the idea of having a newborn in their family, and can be a fun bonding experience with parents to reassure the children that they are still a top priority. Reading the same books before and after the birth can also give your children a sense of continuity, so that their routine doesn't feel entirely disrupted.
Consider giving your children the chance to choose a gift for the new baby. Many often suggest getting the older sibling a gift from the new baby, which is a great idea too, but giving the older siblings a little bit of power to welcome a baby with a gift of their choosing gives them a small sense of importance. Children have so little control over their daily lives, and giving them a decision they can make all on their own is a small way of giving them back some control.
If you're able, consider the possibility of having older siblings present at the birth. There are lots of factors to consider, especially if you're delivering in a place with visitor restrictions, and the maturity of the child should be a top consideration. However, if the child is properly informed about the process of birth, you have a designated person available to care for the child during the birth, and the child is interested in being there, this can be a truly special way of bringing the whole family together. I attended a birth where an older brother was present, and his calm presence as his mother gave birth was such an incredible gift for that family.
What's the process been like for you when you've introduced new babies to your older children? Add your own advice in the comments!