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Preparing for Baby - Siblings

Welcoming a new baby isn't just something we need to prepare for as the adults. It's a whole family affair, from a tiny toddler to a much older kid, they will all feel the effects of this shift in family dynamics. Preparing a sibling for the birth of a baby can be just as important as any other physical or mental preparations. So, I wanted to share a few ways that we prepare our children for the arrival of a new baby. This is by no means an exhaustive list but a few of the different ways that we have worked, especially with Teddy, to prepare for a new baby. 

Grace and Courtesy Lessons

Grace and courtesy lessons are foundational in any Montessori environment. These quick, little opportunities to learn about how to interact with the environment and the other people in it. When it comes to new babies, there are two that I find to be super important in our home.
  1. Walking around a Blanket: I simply place the baby's blanket on the floor and model how to slowly walk around it. We practice getting closer and closer without actually stepping on or walking across the blanket. 

    The blanket gives the baby just a little buffer room should a toddler trip and fall, or drop a toy. It's just a good visual barrier but something that a toddler, in particular will need to practice. This is especially helpful for toddlers and preschoolers who may need reminders on how to keep a little safe distance from a baby placed on the floor. We also practice sitting next to the blanket. Practicing before the baby helps to keep emotions down and make it something fun and simple. 

    (Bonus, this is also really helpful for those of you with dogs. Practicing before the baby is born can teach a dog to give the baby some space once they are here.) 

  2. Gentle Touching: We practice touching things as softly as we can. We talk about the difference between hard and soft, light and heavy. Then we practice with each other, gently touching with one or two fingers instead of grabbing or heavier touches. This is something my kids tend to be really familiar with since we do the same thing with our dogs. 

Books

Books have been another great way to help younger children understand that a new baby is coming and what to expect. I have shared a few of my favorite pregnancy and baby books for kids before. These are always helpful for kids in learning about what a baby might be like, especially if they don't have a bunch of siblings already. 

One new book we have added this time is called New Baby! It's part of a series called Terrific Toddlers and Teddy has been super into it. The book models such important language about excepting all toddler feels and doesn't focus on the baby as much as a toddler's varied emotions surrounding the process. 

Increased Independence

Now, Montessori children tend to have a lot of independence in their lives and in their homes. But, I bet there are still areas where we, as the adult, step in when we don't really need to. One example for me is that I tend to carry Ted to our car when we need to go to school pick up. We often don't have a ton of time, and it's just often easier than letting him walk. But this becomes significantly harder once I have a newborn to also get to the car. So switching up our routine and giving him the space and time to learn to walk to the car efficiently is a helpful way to prepare us all for a new baby. Other examples might include:
  • Accessing snacks and water
  • Going to the bathroom/using the toilet
  • Choosing toys/books 
  • Playing without an adult present 
  • Opening doors 
It really will look different for each child and family. But think about tasks where you might have a harder time doing them while holding a baby. Then slowly work toward giving your child more independence in that process. 

Opportunities to Wait

A big source of frustration for a lot of new siblings is suddenly needing to wait to get the things that they need/want. It can be easy to be immediately available when there are requests, but instead, take your time. Don't feel pressured to immediately stop what you're doing to get a glass of water, or play with a toy, or find something. Give your child a minute to try and do it by themselves or to practice a little patience. 

There will be times with a new baby when you just can't respond immediately. Maybe you'll be changing a diaper, or feeding a baby. Maybe the baby will need to be rocked to sleep. Practicing learning to wait can be an invaluable way to keep everyone's emotions a little more regulated as you adjust. 

Now, I want to be clear that I do not mean that you shouldn't meet your child's needs. And if there is something that requires immediate attention - do it! (Younger babies learn to wait too!) But, just look for ways to practice not always being immediately available, especially to a toddler that has the capacity to wait a moment or two, or for a preschooler that may have the capacity to actually do the task on their own. 

Older Kids

Sometimes it's easy to think that older kids should understand and empathize with you about the arrival of a new baby. That's not true. It's as big of an adjustment for them as it is for you. Expect bigger behavior, expect an increased need for your attention, and an adjustment period. One of the biggest differences between older children and toddlers, is that they are often (but not always) able to express some of their feelings verbally. 

Talking about how they are feeling, what worries them, what roles they might take, or how they might contribute can help settle their minds and bodies a bit. They might also have questions about how babies are born, made, or how they are cared for. These conversations and opportunities for learning can help them feel like a valuable part of the process. Be patient and open to these conversations, even when they come at inconvenient times - like after they have been put to bed! 

Are there other ways you prepare your children for the arrival of a new sibling?
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