Ways to prepare your child for a new sibling
Parents are often worried about how best to prepare their older child (or children) for a new sibling. There is no one right way which is right for every family - there’s too many factors which play a part. What’s important is to be positive and kind when planning for a new baby coming into the family. Your older child will follow your lead, even if, at first, they don’t seem too enthusiastic!Common reactions to hearing a new sibling is coming
Some children are excited from the start, especially those who’ve been asking for a baby brother or sister. Very young children may not understand what all the fuss is about, especially those who are too young to comprehend what’s happening.
It’s not uncommon for older siblings to feel worried they’ll be left out. Sometimes feelings of “Am I not enough” will surface with apprehension around what this new baby will mean for them. By their nature, children are self centred and honestly believe the world and its people revolve around them. So don’t expect your older child to be as happy as you may be about the new baby.
When is the best time to share the news with my older child?
This depends on how old they are. Generally, the earlier in the pregnancy the better, so they have time to get used to the idea. Many parents find the beginning of the first trimester is good timing, but certainly by the time it’s obvious that mummy is pregnant.
Consider your own feelings about having a new baby. If your pregnancy was unplanned, you may not be too excited. It’s reasonable to wait to tell your older children once you’ve come to terms with the pregnancy yourself.
It can help to tie in the baby’s due date with other important dates when explaining when the baby is coming, e.g., around their birthday or Christmas time. Toddlers don’t have a clear concept of time, they’re very much focused on the here and now.
What’s the best way to prepare my older child?
You know the best way to communicate with your older child. If they generally seem to take changes in their stride and are pretty relaxed, then follow their lead. More sensitive children often need lots of explanation and reassurance when change is coming.
10 top ways to prepare older siblings for a new baby:
- Look at books and read stories about babies.
- Show your older child photos of themselves when they were babies. Talk with them about how special and small they were.
- Let them help you get organised for the new baby.
- Take them with you to your ante-natal appointments so they can see the baby on scans and hear their heartbeat.
- Talk with them about how they can help you care for the new baby.
- If you can, spend some time with other parents and their newborns. Let your older child hear the crying and cooing newborns make.
- Buy your older child their own baby doll to care for.
- Reassure your child that you will still be their mummy too. They may need extra cuddles and affection to feel this reassurance, as well as hear it.
- Let your child feel your growing belly and the baby kicking and moving around.
- Transition your older child out of the cot well before the new baby will need it.
When the new baby is here...
It’s important to make some special time each day to give to your older child. Small windows of time can often be found in busiest of days. Try not to ‘push’ the new baby onto their older sibling. Give their relationship time to build - it can take months for everyone in the family to find their new position. You may want to be prepared with a present from the new baby to your child.
A final word
When you’re pregnant it could be hard to imagine loving another child as much as you do your older one. This is the cause for much apprehension for new parents. Be prepared to be very pleasantly surprised. Humans have an infinite capacity for love and parents are no exception.
It may take time to love the new baby with the same intensity as your older child. Be patient and kind as you get to know them and the type of little person they are. There’s so much adjustment and change for everyone in a family in the early days and weeks of a new baby. Care well for yourself first and everything else will follow.
Written for Tooshies by Jane Barry, Midwife and Child Health Nurse, August 2023.