Easing into big brotherhood: a Vail class | VailDaily.com

Easing into big brotherhood: a Vail class

Sarah Mausolf
Vail CO, Colorado
HL New Sibling Class 1 DT 5-10-08

VAIL, Colorado ” For a child, a new brother or sister’s arrival can feel like an intrusion. Who is this petite stranger? Why does mom lavish so much attention on it? And what sort of defense should I mount?

Heather Ahrens, a registered nurse with the Vail Valley Medical Center in Vail, has witnessed children getting upset over their siblings’ birth.

“I see kids that are just getting jealous,” she said. “They’re screaming the whole time. They’re just not ready. They’re not expecting mom and dad to not be their number one fan anymore.”

To avoid destructive behavior like hitting the baby or clinging to mom for attention, it’s important to prepare children for big brother- or sister-hood, Ahrens said.

To that end, four families gathered in the Obstetrics waiting room at the hospital Saturday for “I love my sibling” class.

The class helps children make the leap between mom’s bulging belly and an incoming sibling ” a concept often lost on young ones.

“I think they understand a tiny bit that there’s a baby in there, but not really that it’s coming out and coming to live with them permanently,” said Ahrens, who teaches the class.

Children warmed up to having a new sibling by doing activities like holding life-sized baby dolls. Among the students was Aedan Lawlor, a flax-haired 2-year-old. Son of Kevin and Becky Lawlor from Eagle-Vail, Aedan has expressed a “mild curiosity” about his sister’s June 1 arrival.

“He understands that my belly’s big but I’m not sure he understands the correlation,” Becky said.

During class, Aedan mastered changing the baby doll’s diaper, though he mostly seemed concerned that the baby wasn’t wearing pants. He stared wide-eyed when the nurse wheeled in a real newborn.

And he bordered on ecstatic while pushing buttons on the bed in the delivery room. The button pushing was part of a delivery ward tour designed to help children get comfortable with the hospital. Children also played dress up with nurses’ hats and gloves.

Exposing children to the hospital before mom goes into labor can ease anxiety, Ahrens said.

“We have kids who come in and they’re freaked out when they see the nurses running around with hats and masks, like if we’re going in for a C-section or whatever, they might get scared,” she said. “‘So just exposing them to the hospital, so that they know: ‘This is where mom is. Mom’s safe there. I’m OK to go there. I’ve been there before,’ so it’s not completely foreign.”

To make the whole sibling concept less foreign, parents can do things outside the class as well. Ahrens suggests:

– Reading books together on the topic (see the sidebar for a list of titles).

– Take the child to doctor’s appointments.

– Invite the child to help set up the nursery.

Of course, the child’s age will dictate his or her awareness about the impending sibling. Children younger than 2 tend to be oblivious while 2-year-old children have a vague clue, Ahrens said. Not until children reach late 3 or 4 do they generally understand what’s going on, she said.

At 2 and a half, Aedan is unlikely to get it. Although his parents have taken him to doctor’s appointments, including the ultrasound, he’s expressed little interest in having a sister.

“We’ve asked him, ‘Can you share your mom?'” Kevin said. “He thought about it and said, ‘no.'”

Given this response, the Lawlors expect some bumps on the road to big-brotherhood.

“I foresee some tantrums,” Becky said. “Wanting to be held when I can’t hold him and getting very upset about that.”

With some practice, though, Becky, 33, and Kevin, 37, hope to reach a state of harmony where Aeden learns to share mom. Of course, explaining the new baby’s arrival to the yellow lab will be harder.

“The dog will get even more of the shaft,” Kevin joked. “The dog is the ultimate loser.”

High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.


– “Our New Baby,” by Wendy Cheyette Lewison

– “My Baby Brother Has Ten Tiny Toes,” by Laura Leuck

– “101 Things to do with a Baby,” by Jan Ormerod


– “Will There be a Lap for me?” by Dorothy Corey

– “When the New Baby Comes, I’m Moving Out,” and “Nobody Asked Me if I Wanted a Baby Sister,” by Martha Alexander

– “Aren’t You Lucky!” by Catherine and Laurence Anholt

– “How You Were Born,” “I’m a Big Brother” and “I’m a Big Sister,” by Joanna Cole

Preschool through school-age:

– “Before You Were Born: The Inside Story” and “Baby Science,” by Ann Douglas

– “Mommy’s in the Hospital Having a Baby,” by Maxine Rosenberg

– “Hello Baby!” by Lizzy Rockwell

– “My New Baby and Me: A First Year Record Book for Big Brothers and Sisters,” By Dian Smith

(Source: Vail Valley Medical Center brochure)

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