How to Prepare Your Child to Become a Sibling

Preparing for new baby

Expecting a new little one can be exciting but also a little nerve-racking if you’re trying to prepare baby’s older sibling. It’s important to know that Children of different ages will react differently to a new baby. Knowing what to expect from each age group will make it easier to handle the changes in your family. 

– Ages 1 To 2 Years (Toddlers)

Children of this age will not understand much about what it means to have a new brother or sister. However, let your child hear you talk about the “new baby”; and feel your excitement. They may not understand why you are excited, but your attitude will rub off on her, and he/she will feel excited too. 

Tips for this age: 

  • Look at picture books about a new baby.
  • When the new baby arrives, try to do something special for your older child. 
  • Reassure them that they are still loved using simple words: “More love is made.”

– Ages 2 To 4 Years (Preschoolers)

At this age, your child may be very sensitive to change and may feel threatened by the idea of a new family member. Your child is still very attached to you and may not understand how to share you with others. 

Tips for this age:

  • You may hear to wait a while before telling your preschooler about the baby and ease them into the idea of a sibling by talking about how mom’s stomach is “growing”. However, if mom is feeling ill in the first trimester, it may be better to explain early and ease anxiety or questions. 
  • Show pictures and videos of him when he was a baby. Remind them that they were once a baby too. 
  • Involve your preschooler in planning for the baby — picking out nursery items, clothes, etc. 
  • Expect your child to regress behaviorally, emotionally, and maybe even in actions. Try to space apart big changes – moving beds, potty training, starting school, etc. 
  • For this, my best suggestion would be setting aside specific times for your child so they feel seen. 

– Ages Older Than 5 Years

Children older than 5 years of age, usually don’t feel threatened by the idea of a new baby being welcomed but they may feel resentful toward changes in their usual routines. 

Tips for this age:

  • Tell your child what is happening using words that he or she can understand.
  • Have your older child help get things ready for the new baby.
  • When you bring the new baby home, make your older child feel that she has a role to play in caring for the baby (i.e. joint diaper changes, holding the bottle, etc.)
  • Talk up their advantages of being older like staying up later!
  • Do not overlook your older child’s needs and activities. 

How to Prepare for Hospital Time and Returning With the Baby

With the pandemic, chances are that your toddler or older child won’t be able to come into the hospital with you and your partner. You’ll have to start preparing your child for that potential time that you won’t be together.

  • Prepare your child for when you are in the hospital. Explain and be honest about what is going to happen.
  • Try to use caregivers who are familiar to the child and allow him or her to stay in an environment that is also familiar. 
  • Ask family and friends to spend a little time with your older child when they come to see the new baby so attention is shared. 
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