There’s nothing as quite earth shaking to a little one as the arrival of a new sibling. Whether accompanied by a great deal of excitement, or a little apprehension and a dose of sibling rivalry, things are going to be changing at home! There’s a lot you can do to help older children prepare for the arrival of a new sibling, and it starts long before baby comes home and goes on long after, too.
BEFORE BABY COMES HOME
1) Make sure you are the one to tell your child about the pregnancy and that they don’t overhear it with their super little ears. When you do this is entirely up to you, be it as soon as you know, at the 12-week mark, when mom starts to “show”, etc. You choose the time that works for your family, but make sure you do it early enough that you are in control of the message.
2) Let your child practice holding a doll very carefully. Teach them how to support the head and also transition the baby to and from an adult.
3) Give your child some choices in the preparations. You can let them choose between two names, choosing a few items for the nursery, pick a special outfit or book for the baby, etc.
4) Let them know what to expect when it is time for the baby to be born. Again, this is whatever is right for your family. You may choose to have an older sibling at the birth and if so, prepare them. If the child is going to stay at home with a trusted adult, let them know who that will be and build up some excitement around the potential visit.
5) Read children’s books about getting a new baby. Some suggested titles are:
- One Special Day (A Story for Big Brothers and Sisters), by Lola M. Schafer
- I’m a Big Brother/Sister, by Joanna Cole
- The Baby Sister, by Tommie DePaoloa
After Baby Arrives
1) Have the new baby and older child exchange gifts. A special present from baby to their amazing older sibling can go a long way.
2) Let your older child help whenever possible. Things may take a little longer, but that’s okay. They will become invaluable, and bonds will grow, as they entertain during diaper changes, fetch needed items, and become the new baby’s favorite companion.
3) Understand regression happens. Older children may take on some baby traits they had left behind, such as wanting a bottle for himself or herself or wetting even though potty training seemed done. This is absolutely normal and it is best to treat it lightly and move on as it will likely fade in time.
4) Make some plans for when you’re busy with baby but need your older one near by. Give them their own doll to feed or change (boys too!), or have a few special toys or books on hand that you can pull out when you really need two hands and most of your attention for the youngest child.
5) Get some one-on-one time. Carve out a little time at least once a week where your attention can be solely focused on the older child.
New Baby Sibling: Helping Your Older Child (or children) Adjust, University of Michigan
New Sibling: Preparing Your Older Child, Mayo Clinic
Preparing Your Child for A New Sibling, KidsHealth.org