Opinion Saturday: Preparing children for new siblings

Today’s question deals with what my mind won’t quit buzzing about. What’s the best way to help your children prepare for a new sibling?

I know that many readers would love to hear hints about helping two year olds become big brothers and sisters.. But also I’d really love to hear from experienced families who’ve done what we are doing –adopting older children. What helps kids be prepared?

You have until Wednesday evening to reply. I’ll be giving the Golden Keyboard to the person who posts the most thoughtful reply. So come on. Hit me with your best tip!

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  1. We did a lot of verbalizing with our 19-month old before the new baby arrived. Verbalizing, reading books, and putting away the ‘baby things’ that would go to the new baby to get big sister accustomed to her new way of life before the baby came (the high chair was put away and we transitioned big sister to a booster, we moved her from a crib to a toddler bed in a different room months in advance, etc.). When the baby arrived, big sister got her very own photo album with pictures of her with her new baby brother, and baby brother brought her a present when he came home.

    I haven’t had the joy of bringing in older siblings, but a 2-year old likes to be helpful and might like to help prepare for her new sisters – color special pictures to put on their walls, help plant a potted plant for them, or help shop for the things you’ll need. We’re waiting for our kids’ grandparents to move in with us (the kids haven’t met them yet), but each of our kids have a photo album with pictures of their grandparents. They know them now by their pictures, and talk about when they’ll come. It’s helped a lot.

  2. Dawn in OR says:

    Mary, CONGRATULATIONS AND YAHOO!!
    You have a wonderful family and I think you already know so much about how to make it work! I think the best thing you can do for your girls is to show them how to be children again. Let your kids show them how to have family fun. And teach your new kids that family is forever and no one will ever leave them again.
    Watch for signs that you daughters may want to do “too much” for you because no one has to earn being part of a family. When they get home you will all be part of a team and every ones input is important for the happy running of a family. No one is more important or less important because of how they came into your family by birth or adoption. Let them know how special they are to every one! Make time for each sibling to have time with the girls to make the bond strong. Let each child have a special thing they can do with them. Pick on what ever strength each individual child may have or a special interest they can share.
    When problems arise let the kids know it is normal and all families have these times. It is not the end but a way to make a stronger family when you work out problems.
    And most important of all lead them to a Lord who cares and leads us all into ways to have a good and happy relationship with each other.
    Dawn
    In OR
    Carissa’s mommie

  3. Dawn seems to have hit on everything! Excellent ideas!

    From the perspective of one of the older kids in a large family, as you can appreciate, when a new baby was coming we’d all chip in to help set up the new space. This ranged from actual chores (washing all the linens and clothes, cleaning the room) to the more fun (buying a few new clothes, making a special welcome home sign). We’d each make a special card, although these days I think you could use the digital camera to make a little scrapbook. For the newborns it was something to put in their memory box of “what we were before you, and how happy we were to meet you”, which is fun to look back at now, but older kids may actually appreciate it now.

    We also got some fun family time with our parents before the birth and we’d get individual time with them too. They’d always tell us all the reasons we are so special to them, unique and important to the family, and such, and how they hoped we would be able to share that with our new sibling. We’d talk about our favorite things about our current siblings and what is fun about a baby (for you guys, perhaps what the kids look forward to about each of the new sisters that you may know: if they like a sport or craft the kids enjoy already, etc). That always helped remind us that new family would be a good thing, or at least not much different than what we already knew and had grown to love.

  4. I’ve never adopted children so I can’t tell you from experience. All I can think about is just talking it through with each of them on their own level. Also I think praying with your children alone and as a group will make this all so much easier! Kids seem to adjust so easily and from everything I’ve seen your kids are so welcoming of new siblings already!!

    We’re adding #3 of our own around here and I’m nervous enough about how the two older boys are going to handle it. I’ll be reading through everyone’s answers trying to get a better understanding for myself : )

  5. What a wonderful topic Mary…I’ve been thinking about this a bunch lately since August seems to be approaching fast! I’ll have to remember to check back for more replies even though these ideas are wonderful too.

  6. We thought long and hard about explaining our older child adoption to our other kids. It seems we thought to hard, because one morning, while we were still ‘in proccess’ I awoke to the following conversation occuring down the hall….
    Charlie: Where do babies come from?
    Eddie: God puts them inside Mama’s belly, and when they are ready they come out.
    Charlie: So Mama had a baby inside her, and then another, and then another, and then another, and then another, and then another?
    Eddie: (and I can hear him rolling his eyes.
    Charlie: Well what about Philippe?
    Eddie: Well God knew Mama was tired so he made the next baby come from Haiti.
    Charlie: But Philippe’s not a baby!
    Eddie: (again with the audible eye roll) Well God knew a baby wouldn’t be much fun for us to play with, so he made him 8!

    Sometimes we think long and hard about how to help them understand, when the reality is, they are already so wise!

  7. We prayed regularly for our older children. Before we even knew who they were, we would pray for “future brothers and sisters.” They were covered in prayer by my then 5 and 3 1/2 year old daughters every meal and every bedtime. The girls were more faithful at praying than I was!

    Little did we know that we were also praying for two more who are still to come…

    We also told our daughters regularly that their future siblings would need a lot of attention and would take up quite a bit of Mommy’s and Daddy’s time, and that we wanted them to be good girls and good obeyers.

    The bedrooms were set up a few months in advance, and that helped the girls get ready a little, especially since their future sister was sharing a room with them.

    Without our prompting, our prayer warrior (now 6 yo) daughter is praying that her waiting sister will be adopted by us – this was before we made the decision and without her knowledge of our considering the opportunity! The faith of a child!

  8. I thought this was a great question and it fit right in to a series of FAQs I’ve been answering on my blog about our adoption process. Here is the postI wrote about it.

  9. Well, I am a bit late on this topic. We have a 10 year-old bio daughter and a 6 year-old daughter whom we adopted at age four. To broach the subject with our older daughter (then 7), we read A Mother for Choco. Then I told her, “You know how that little bird needed a mom? Sometimes there are children who need a new family. We think we might be able to help a child like that.” She immediately excalimed, “Let’s adopt one!”
    We also read ‘Emma’s Yucky Brother’ which is the story of a girl, about 8, who gets a new brother, about age 4. It covers the homestudy visits and preplacement visits, and the new child’s less-than-agreeable behavior early on (and the older sister’s disappointment).
    My older one actually did have a pretty tough adjustment, not due to sharing our attention, but due to the younger one’s behaviors. It helped for me to talk to her about it, and let her express her negative feelings. I also tried to give her breaks by having her go to friend’s houses, and taking her out alone for the afternoon. After two years, things have settle down a lot. Most of the time I feel like their fighting is ‘normal sibling rivalry’ – which was not the case early on.
    As you are welcoming older children into your family, you may be interested in a children’s book I wrote called ‘Welcome Home, Forever Child: A Celebration of Children Adopted as Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Beyond’. It provides a loving message of reassurance and permanence, with a spiritual tone. It has been endorsed by Foster Cline, Regina Kupecy, Jayne Schooler, and Mary Hopkins-Best. You can learn more at my website http://www.geocities.com/forever.child1.
    Congratulations on your new additions to the family, Mary, and wishing you as smoothe and adjustment as possible!
    Christine Mitchell
    forever.child@hotmail.com

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