How to Prepare Your Child for a New Baby Brother or Sister
When a new baby is about the join the family, everyone celebrates! Not only will the arrival of a baby change mom and dad’s life, it’s going to be life-changing for your child as well. They are about to be a big brother or big sister! How can you prepare your child for a new sibling?
Talk it Out
First, explain what will happen and when. Show your child a calendar and share the expected timing of events. Then start preparing them for what to expect. What does caring for a baby look like? How will mommy will be busier because of the baby’s needs? Stay positive and upbeat when you talk about the baby so that your child will infer that this is wonderful news for them as well, even though mom and dad will have more responsibilities. Explain that in the beginning, mom will be tired from lots of feedings to help the baby grow to be just like big brother or big sister.
Point to Role Models
Do you know any families with kids and babies? Talk about them and point to examples of people your child knows who are big brothers and big sisters. Make a fuss about these older siblings and point out how they are enjoying their new role. Remind your child that you’re not just adding a baby to the family, but that your child is getting a promotion to big brother or big sister status!
There are lots of books out there about preparing for a new sibling. “I Am a Big Sister!” or “I Am a Big Brother!” by Caroline Jayne Church are just a couple of examples. Read them together and talk about how the characters in the books you read respond with certain emotions (skepticism, excitement, love, confusion, etc.) and affirm that it’s OK to have lots of different feelings. Most young kids will likely feel positively if the rest of the family responds to the pregnancy with excitement.
Also read books with characters who are siblings so that they can start to familiarize themselves with what an expanded family looks like. Book series like The Berenstain Bears talk a lot about the adventures of Brother and Sister Bear. There is also one called “The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby” by Stan Berenstain.
Involve Them in Decisions
Prepare your child for the arrival of the baby by asking them to help you get things ready. They can pick out toys, blankets, bedding, diapers, baskets for the nursery, special books, cushion for the nursing chair, and more. Getting them involved will help them feel like part of the process, and give them ownership over the situation as everyone waits for the new addition to the family. Once they see baby using the things they have picked out, they’ll feel even more confident.
Start the Sibling Bond Early
One of the best things you can do is to start the sibling bond early. Use language that starts to connect your child with the baby inside your belly. “Your sister is kicking!” “Your brother is really active today.” “I think your baby is happy because she heard your voice!”
Parents often have to make big decisions surrounding the arrival of a baby but try not to let your child hear any worrisome grown-up talk about the changes head. Though the transition can be challenging for some kids who miss getting all of mom and dad’s attention, need to start sharing a room, or endure other adjustments, it will be easier if they genuinely adore their little sibling.
Take a Class at the Hospital
Though it may be virtual this year because of COVID, check your local hospital and see if they offer a New Sibling Class for kids. Many hospitals host a class that teaches children about the changes that happen to a family when a newborn arrives and how big brothers and big sisters can help.
After the Baby Comes
There is always a flurry of excitement after the baby comes. People come to see a new baby and send food and gifts. If you are concerned your child is going to feel left out, prepare a gift for your child to congratulate them on becoming a big sister or a big brother.
Some things you can do to make the transition smoother:
- Don’t force your child to help out. If they do not want to fetch a diaper or hand you a wipe, let them off the hook. They might just need some time or are waiting for a task that is more interesting.
- Talk to your child while you are feeding, or read to them while you are holding the baby. Invite them into your caretaking.
- Give yourself and your child grace. It can be a difficult transition for parents and for kids too! Soon the changes won’t be so new and your child will find comfort in the new family dynamic.