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Introducing Children to Their New Sibling

Imagine how much more stressful it can be when a seriously ill premature baby is the one being introduced. Premature babies require a tremendous amount of attention from their parents. That is attention that will be taken away from siblings. The tricky part is maintaining the balancing act that allows parents to give necessary attention to the new baby without neglecting the older children.

Among the many suggestions for introducing children to a new premature sibling is to take them to the NICU for a visit. This is not necessarily wise in every case – and not every hospital allows sibling visits anyway – but it can be very productive in families for which it is right.

Why a NICU Visit?

The primary purpose of taking older children to the NICU for a visit is to help them understand what was previously only an abstract concept. It is one thing to say a new baby has been added to the family; it's an entirely different thing for siblings to actually meet that baby at the hospital. A visit makes it possible for them to connect a real, living person to all those things mummy and daddy have been talking about.

Parents can do a number of things to prepare the older children for a NICU visit, so there will be no surprises:

  • Offer Descriptions – Parents should offer appropriate descriptions of the kinds of things the kids will see in the NICU. The descriptions do not have to be complex or complicated, just sufficient enough to paint a good picture in the minds of the little ones.
  • Show Them Photos – Provided mum and dad have been taking photos throughout the process, showing those photos to the other children can be quite helpful.
  • Read Books Together – There are a lot of great books describing premature birth in terms children can understand. Reading books together is a fantastic way to open a productive dialogue and encourage questions.

Parents can also offer different ways siblings can make a connection with the baby during the visit. They might suggest siblings talk to the new brother or sister, sing the baby a song, or even draw a picture. Just remember that the goal is a pleasant introduction.

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