Introducing your child (or children) to a new brother or sister is a moment you’ll never forget!
A new sibling can be exciting for your older child, but it can also bring on big feelings about sharing his home, his things, and his parents with someone else. The good news is that you can ease the transition by preparing him.
Below are expert tips for getting your older child ready for a baby, and helping him adjust afterwards. The advice applies whether your child is a toddler, a preschooler, or school-aged; just be sure to deliver it in language he understands.
Share the News
A good rule of thumb for telling your older child you’re having (or adopting) a baby is to do it just before you announce it to the rest of the world. That way you don’t risk him hearing it from someone else.
Balance Excitement and Honesty
Talk about the baby in a positive way, but also let your older child know that taking care of babies is a lot of work, they cry, and they can’t play until they’re older.
Let your older child know (before and after the baby arrives) that you will always love him and make time for him.
Recruit His Help
Involve your older child in preparing for the baby. A toddler can pick out baby pajamas, for instance, or a preschooler can help put baby items away. You could ask your school-aged child to create a piece of art to frame and hang in the nursery.
Your older child may have a lot of questions about the baby. Offer reassurance by taking time to answer them in an honest, positive, and developmentally-appropriate way.
If pretend play is developmentally-appropriate for your older child, it’s a great way to explore the idea of having a new sibling. You can give him a special doll that can be his “baby,” and show him how to take care of it. You can also use dolls, stuffed animals, or any other social toys to play pretend sibling games that involve helping, sharing, kindness, and friendship.
Accomplish Major Changes
If it’s time for your older child to potty train, move from a crib to a bed, move to a new bedroom, or any other major change, try to do it before the baby arrives — ideally with some time afterwards for him to get used to it. If it doesn’t work out that way, it’s best to embark on these changes after the post-baby transition has quieted.
Look at His Baby Photos
Spend time cuddling with your older child while looking at his baby photos. Tell him how excited you were to meet him, and share funny or sweet stories about his baby days. Weave the new baby in with comments like, “I wonder if your baby sister will look like you did when you were a baby.”
Develop a Special Ritual
Before your baby arrives, create a new, simple daily ritual with your older child, like singing a specific song before bed. The idea is that after the baby is born, you or your partner can continue this ritual with your older child and it will be familiar and just for him.
AFTER BABY ARRIVES
Be Patient with Regressions
It’s not uncommon for older siblings to regress when a new baby joins the family. Little ones who’ve successfully potty trained may start having accidents or want to drink out of a bottle or use a pacifier again. Children of any age may act out to compete with the baby for your attention.
Try to be patient with these setbacks. Set limits when appropriate, but let your child know you understand how hard it is to have to share you with the baby.
Recruit Your Older Child’s Help
Pediatrician Jamie Edelstein of Gables Pediatrics in Miami advises parents to “help your older child feel included by involving him in caring for the baby.” Even if he’s a young toddler, Edelstein says, you can ask him to bring you a burp cloth or a clean diaper.
Keep up with Old Routines
Stick with your older child’s usual routines as much as possible. Your day-to-day will change with a new baby in the house, but the structure of your child’s routines can help him feel regulated amidst the changes.
Carve Out One-on-One Time
Edelstein also advises parents with a new baby to spend time alone with older siblings. This can be hard (especially if you’re breastfeeding around the clock) but partners, grandparents, or other people who are close to your child can spend quality one-on-one time with him, too.
Getting your older child ready for a new sibling is just one important thing to do before your baby arrives. Head to this article to read about other key tasks to accomplish before the big day.