The birth of a child is a beautiful event. But it also means a change for all family members. Especially for siblings, the world can suddenly become confusing. Anticipation, curiosity, and fear of getting less attention can cause quite a bit of emotional chaos. But there are things you can do during pregnancy to ease your older children's fears and worries. If you are ill or bedridden and are worried that your children will miss out because of this, you may, in some cases, also be entitled to a home aide to support you.
The older your child is, the sooner you should tell them you're pregnant. As soon as you are ready to tell others about your pregnancy, you should talk to your older child about it. This is better than your child finding out about the pregnancy incidentally through conversation or through a third party. It also allows your child to be a part of the pregnancy. They can better understand the changes your body and perhaps your emotions are going through. If you engage your child in this way, they are more likely to share your joy as well. Beautiful children's books on the subject of a new addition to the family or a visit from a baby in your circle of friends can help with the preparation. To explain to your child what happens when you get pregnant, you can also show them photos from when you were pregnant with them.
Your pregnancy can bring up many different feelings for older siblings. Everything from the greatest joy to strong rejection is possible. It's best if you don't have a specific expectation for your child's reaction. Small children especially may have trouble putting their feelings into words. Try to stay calm no matter what your child's reaction is. The most important thing is to communicate to the child that you will continue to love them just as much as you always have. Still, your child may become insecure or jealous. They may notice that you talk a lot about the coming baby and pay a lot of attention to the pregnancy. To prevent your child from feeling left out, you can involve them in some decisions or describe to them what everyday life with the baby will be like. Tell your child what you need to do for their new sibling, but also about how you want to spend time with them too. Explain that the newborn baby will have a lot to learn and will need the support of the whole family. It's important that you don't just talk about the baby coming. Spend intentional time with your older child during pregnancy too. This will give them confidence that the entire world won’t just revolve around the baby in the future.
Your children will need some time to adjust to the new situation. Feelings of attachment and competition, affection and rejection between siblings can alternate quite quickly. But with time they will get used to each other, play together and become more and more familiar. As parents, you should not force anything. Don't tell your kids they have to love each other because they are siblings. This often has the opposite effect. The same applies to tasks that the older child should take over. First, let them participate only as much as they would like. After the birth, consciously spend time with your older child and without the baby. A good way is to establish set rituals and activities that you only do with the older child. For example, you can always spend half an hour together in the evening looking at a picture book or singing. Your older child will probably try to find new ways to get your attention. Maybe they will start talking, hitting or biting like a baby again. Try to respond calmly. Most of the time, it just shows that your child has an increased need for closeness. When the children are a little older, it also helps to do things all together. Avoid comparing your children to each other at all costs.
Some midwives or maternity clinics in Germany offer courses for siblings, the names of which translate roughly to ‘sibling schools’ or ‘sibling classes’ respectively. There are different types of such courses. For example, there are courses that one parent or both parents do with the child. But there are also courses in which older children participate alone. The main point is that older siblings can openly ask questions that they would not ask their parents. The topics of the courses are mostly similar. Children learn what the coming baby will like, need and be able to do. They playfully learn how to properly and carefully handle the baby and what tasks they can possibly take responsibility for. In some cases, they can already try out these tasks, such as diapering or dressing and undressing, under supervision. The costs for such courses are usually not covered by health insurance.