[Note: Something like 99.9% of the awesomeness and 100% of the ideas in this post came directly from The Best Mom, my wife.]
Introducing Beanie (almost 5) and Bug (almost 3) to Baby Squish was a long-term project.
It had to be: a baby coming into our family would completely change the entire dynamic. Their roles were established and once the baby was born, would never be the same again.
We had to prepare them over several months and utilize multiple tactics to make sure they excitedly showered Squish with love, and knew how to act around him.
- Constant References: We first told the kids about the impending arrival roughly four months in advance. There was no real reason to loop them in earlier, since they didn’t know what was happening. But after they knew that a baby was coming? We spoke about ALL THE TIME. In the car to and from school. At dinner. Before bed. Running errands. A day didn’t go by that we didn’t mention the baby.
- Engage Their Brains: We knew that just talking about the baby would definitely familiarize them with the baby’s arrival, but wouldn’t be enough. Later in the pregnancy, we started asking them questions about the baby. Would it be a boy or a girl (since we didn’t know!)? What were they most excited about? What did they want to teach the baby? We found that asking these questions allowed us to build their excitement every day.
- Give Them Something New: Their world was about to change in ways they had no control over. We needed to counteract that, so they both had a sense of newness in their lives beyond the baby. Best solution? Upgrade their bedrooms!
- First, we moved our daughter out of a toddler bed and into a twin bed! This was the most exciting change in her daily life since…moving into the toddler bed. Since she loves rainbows and unicorns, we decorated her entire room in them (plus a Star Wars poster she was beyond excited about!). Now, every day, she went to sleep and woke up in her happy place.
- Second, we transitioned our son out of the nursery and crib into his “big boy room” and into our daughter’s old toddler bed. Her told us he wanted his new room to be a firetruck. So we went to work, strategically spray-painting the white toddler bed into the best firetruck bed ever. (separate post on that coming one of these days)
- Separately, they also got new “big brother/big sister t-shirts to wear when the baby arrived. We kept these as visible to the kids as possible over the final week of the pregnancy, so they could see them and get excited to wear them.
- Involve Them In Prep: Another great way to get kids excited about a new baby is to have them actively involved in getting ready. Giving them small jobs, like taking a box from one room to another, or helping check and replace batteries on swings and toys are things they can do that are meaningful contributions. Plus, it provides a fun parent-kid activity away from the TV.
- Gifts From The Baby: Let’s be honest here, little kids prefer to get instead of give. We bought the kids gift bag from “the baby” that included play sets, pajamas, and other fun things. As soon as the baby was born, my parents dropped these bags at the hospital, so when they brought the kids a few hours later, there were magically presents from the baby to Beanie and Bug! We also said that Amzi catered the room with hospital graham crackers. Don’t judge – it got the job done. Both kids gave the baby kisses and thanked him for the presents…and the snack.
- Snuggles All The Time: The best way to build that new sense of family belonging and responsibility is to be together. Sure, we aren’t trusting our kids to babysit, or even hold the baby unsupervised. But finding those key moments where we can all snuggle in bed, or Beanie can hold the baby while sitting on a couch next to Mommy, or Bug can sneak in a quick kiss…those go a long way. That is where the magic is. We started this the day #3 came home from the hospital.
Our new world is just getting started. We know there are mega-challenges ahead, most of which we can’t even imagine right now. But making sure our foundation — our happiness and togetherness as a family — is set, will help us stay strong in the weeks ahead.