Throughout the region, there are many resources like birthing classes, parenting classes, and even support groups for expectant mothers. But what resources exist for young children who are about to become a new brother or sister?
Once again NorthShore Health Center has stepped up to fill a need in our community. Every other month they host a “Big Brother, Big Sister” class at their Lake Station conference room. Wednesday’s meeting taught young children and their parents how they will be able to help take care of the newest member of their family.
“We strive pretty hard to show that we are not just a doctor’s office,” said Denise Carpenter, Lead Community Outreach Coordinator for NorthShore. “We are a medical home. We care about the families, their resources, and their needs. [This class] is a testament to the fact that we keep looking for ways to educate the community in areas that are lacking.”
The class begins with the adoption of a doll or stuffed animal "baby" by each student.
Instructor and Registered Nurse Hannah Keener demonstrated tasks for children, like how to change a diaper or how to feed their soon-to-be-siblings. Attendees even got to taste test a couple jars of baby food to see what dinner will be like for their future siblings.
“Parents may not realize how important it is to include their older children in things to help care for the newborn that can make the toddler feel extremely valued,” said Keener, “Like bringing wipes, helping to feed, putting on a new diaper, [or] holding. This class aims to introduce these things to the toddler, as well as give ideas to the parents of what their toddler may like to do to feel involved.”
Gaining a sibling is a life-changing event for a child. Their whole world is altered in an instant, and that can be pretty scary. Getting them involved and clearing their confusion can help ease the transition.
Keener explained, “My goal is to help them welcome their newborn sibling in the most positive way possible. The expectant mothers in attendance already had been communicating with their children about what to expect, but wanted to make sure all their bases were covered.
“I thought [the class] would help him. He’s usually by himself a lot. I don’t know how he is going to be once [his sister] gets here,” explained Trista Mount of Portage, who brought her 4-year-old son, Adam.
The kids might not have fully realized what having a sibling will mean to them, but they were affectionate with their dolls and able to answer questions about the baby’s development process. They even drew pictures of what their new sibling will look like. Each kid took home a coloring book and a box of bandaids.
Annalynn Thomas, 5, was asked how she felt about having a new sister. She said, “Very happy. If they’re crying you sing to them. Or if they’re pooping you ask mommy to change their diaper. It helps her a lot.”
Both kids graduated from their class with a special certificate.
The classes run every other month. More information can be found at the NorthShore Health Center’s website, or by calling their office at (219) 763-8112.