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The thought of having a new brother or sister can be a very upsetting experience for a child. Think about it for a moment from the child's point of view. The child has had all of the attention from Mom and Dad - and it has not been necessary to share that attention with anybody else.  

The child knows that his (or her) life is going to change dramatically in the very near future.  This will tend to generate all kinds of unrealistic fears and expectations. Resentment of the expected child can actually start to build at this early stage.  

There are some things that you can do to prepare your child for a new brother or sister. Here are some steps that you can take to defuse these fears and resentments well before they gain a firm foothold in your child's mind;

-If possible, let the child go with you on prenatal visits so he/she can listen to the baby's heartbeat and perhaps see the ultrasound picture.

-Try to promote your child's new role and importance by referring to the baby as "your little brother" or "your little sister". Try not to use the general term "baby" and by all means avoid using phrases like "Mommy's baby!"

-Involve your child in as much of the preparation for the new baby as possible. Some good areas where you can involve your child are; picking a name, decorating the nursery, picking baby outfits, choosing mobiles and other items, and helping Mom pack for her trip to the hospital.

-While you are in the hospital, maintain frequent contact with your child. This helps the child to know that everything is fine and that you miss him/her.

-When your child visits the hospital, try and have the baby in a bassinet so you are free to hug your child.

-If possible, have whoever brings your child to the hospital make a "Hi! I'm the big brother (or sister)." name tag for the child to wear.

-Be open to the times when your child may want to discuss with you some of the fears and concerns that they may have. If this idea is new to you, refer to my earlier columns on how to have meaningful discussions with your child.

-Check out the local library for suitable books on becoming a big brother or big sister that you can read to your child. These are absolutely perfect times to have those discussions with your child that I spoke about earlier.

With a little bit of thought and planning, the arrival of a new bother or sister can be a fun and non-threatening experience for your child.


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