Here are some suggestions which may help:
- Tell them what’s happening honestly, in simple language that’s right for your child’s age so they understand and feel involved.
- Use time feeding your baby as an opportunity to talk to your other children, to read them a story, or just to chat.
- Encourage your child to talk to and about the new baby by showing them photos of themselves as a baby to compare the differences or by drawing pictures to show how the new baby fits into your immediate and extended family.
- Try to make sure you, your partner, or extended family have some one-to-one time each day to spend with them alone so they still feel loved.
- Look for appropriate opportunities for your older children to help you care for your new baby and then praise them for being such a helpful big sister or brother. For example, older children can help with changing the baby under supervision. Younger children can help you with baby care by gathering baby items.
- If possible, keep up familiar routines depending on your premature baby’s needs. Established routines will help reassure older children, but do be aware you can only do so much. Ask for help from family when this is not possible.
Taking care of siblings (brothers and sisters)
Having a premature baby is a big change for you as a parent – and that it is also true for your other children. All of you were expecting more time to get used to the idea of having a new baby in your household. Because your premature baby needs even more of your time and attention, your other children may feel your absence physically and emotionally even more strongly than if you were bringing home a full term, healthy newborn. Try to understand how they see the situation and enlist the help of other trusted family and close friends to provide your older children with the love, attention, and support they need during this time of major transition in your family.
Including grandparents/extended family
Grandparents and extended family can be a major source of support in helping you with your premature baby when they come home; however, extended family can also be a source of stress at this time. Family members often want to help but don’t know what you need. It can be hard for your family to know when to give advice or just listen, so encourage family and friends to read this website to help them understand some of the things you might be going through.
They may need you to ask for help and advice and to give them clear instructions on how you want them to help.
Some things that your family can do to help you:
- Give some practical help with housework/shopping/meal preparation.
- Help with your other children by doing school runs, babysitting, making meals, or helping with homework.
- Take care of your pets.
- If you feel you need a bit of space, ask a grandparent or member of your extended family to update other family and friends on your baby’s progress and explain the need to limit visitors at this time.
This section on Family Health was written by Professor Fiona Alderdice and Phyl Gargan.
Encourage your child to talk to and about the new baby.
Grandparents and extended family can be a major source of support.