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Help Siblings Adjust to a New Baby

1. Make sure you're the one to break the news that you're expecting to your older child. A child who learns you've been hiding something from him is apt to feel betrayed, resentful, or at the least, left out -- not a good beginning for any relationship.

2. Answer any questions your child has as honestly as possible -- and then wait. Keep an open line of communication for new thoughts, questions and worries.

3. Make a "Big Brother" or "Big Sister" book together. Create "before the new baby" and "after the new baby" section, with photos and drawings of your child and important relatives and friends. Make sure to include her doing things that mean a lot to her. Let her tell you what the captions should be. Don't edit out the negative comments; remember it's her book, and these are her feelings about having a new family member.

4. "Act out." Make-believe play about the coming birth of your child will help him express his fears and concerns. If he won't join in, you can act out all the parts. Don't worry about being silly -- that's the point

5. Create a calendar. Buy or make a special "getting ready for baby" schedule, with information about when you're due, where she'll stay while you're in the hospital, and who will be taking care of her. After the baby is born, make sure that someone fills in the day you're planning to come home. Then, keep the calendar going for a week or so after you return, in order to show your child that the routine will continue.

6. Schedule "You and me" time. Make sure to spend a good uninterrupted 15 minutes each day alone with your child, and let him pick the activity. Don't make the time conditional on good behavior.

7. Point out other pregnant women on the street, and let her spend some time with other babies whenever you can. Check out sibling classes at your hospital or birthing center, and make a special trip to the nursery to make sure she knows where you'll be while you're away from her. She can help you pack for the hospital, too, and make sure you include a special picture of her to take along.

8. Visit your local video store and library for good books and videos on having a new baby. One perennial favorite is Julius, Baby of the World, by Kevin Henkes.

9. Get him involved. Let your big boy "talk" to your baby in the womb. Tell him what an important teacher he'll be. Let him pick out a gift for the baby that he can take to the hospital on his first visit. And on the way home from the hospital, make sure he does something fun that's just for him -- a trip to the park or the ice cream store.

10. Get excited. Share your happy feelings -- they're contagious!

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