It’s such an exciting moment when you first find out you’re pregnant.
But… This excitement is slightly different than your first pregnancy. It was only you and your partner back then. You didn’t have to break the news to a child who might not take it as gracefully as you’d hoped.
Now your mind is plagued with nagging questions! How’d your older child react to the new baby? Will they be jealous and resentful? How do you prepare your toddler to become a big sibling? How will it affect them emotionally? How can you make the addition of a new member smooth for them?
Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.
Read on, and I’m going to answer all your questions so that you can prepare your child for the big change.
Why do I need to prepare my Older Child for a New Sibling?
Your older child has always been the center of attention up until now. They never had to fight for love, affection, and attention before. So, it’s normal for them to feel a wide array of emotions when there’s going to be a little new baby hogging all the attention.
Children of different ages might react differently to the big news.
Toddlers(1-3 years old)
At this age, they’re only just beginning to understand the concept of big brother or big sister and what the role entails. Raising a toddler is tough, and this will be one of the biggest challenges you will face!
Preschoolers(3-5 years old)
Your child is susceptible to changes at this age, and the idea of sharing you with a new baby might overwhelm them.
School-aged Children(5 and up)
Your older child may feel more curious and less threatened by a new family member’s arrival at this age. However, they’re still going to feel jealous and resentful if you’re spending all your time with the new baby and ignoring them.
Regardless of their age, welcoming a new sibling may feel challenging on so many levels. That’s why you need to prepare them for the birth or adoption of their new sibling. If they’re prepared, they:
- will look forward to welcoming the new baby,
- will understand that their new sibling isn’t trying to take their place,
- will try to take care of the little sibling,
- won’t see their baby brother or sister as their rival for your attention,
- won’t feel left out, jealous and insecure after the baby is born.
How do I prepare my older child for a new baby?
Preparing your firstborn for a new sibling might feel overwhelming. But with a little planning, you can get them excited about meeting the new baby. Let’s get started, shall we?
Don’t Keep Them in The Dark.
The first question that popped into your mind is when to tell your child that they are going to have a sibling?
I recommend breaking the news to the older child as soon as you start showing in pregnancy.
That way, they’ll get enough time to get used to the idea of a baby sister or brother.
Address Their Questions
Discuss the pregnancy and answer all their questions in an age-appropriate way so that your morning sickness and baby bump doesn’t make them anxious.
If they’re curious about where the new baby will come from, answer them using pictures and videos from your firstborn’s pregnancy.
Don’t Disregard Their Feelings.
Your toddler might be really excited, sad, or confused after you share the news with them. No matter how they react, make sure you stay calm.
If they don’t show any emotion right away, they probably don’t understand the situation and need time to process it.
Don’t rush them.
Let Your Child Know What To Expect
If they aren’t old enough to understand the concept of a new sibling, show them picture books of new babies and visit your friends who recently had a baby.
Show enthusiasm when you talk about the ‘new baby.’
Show them their own baby pictures and videos. Enroll them in a sibling preparation class.
Make Them Part of the Pregnancy
Let your toddler accompany you to the doctor’s appointment and let them hear the baby’s heartbeat.
Get a 3D/4D ultrasound done and show them their baby brother or sister’s movement.
If you find the sex of your baby, let your toddler know about it so that they can be excited about their baby brother or sister.
Hold Off Making Any Big Changes
You want your older child to move from crib to bed or start toilet training? Do it during the first few months of your pregnancy or a few months after the new baby is born.
If you do it right before or after the baby arrives, your older child might feel like they’re being displaced because of the new baby.
Also, try to keep their daily routine unchanged so that they don’t feel like their life’s been upended.
Set Realistic Expectations
Obviously, they’re expecting to get a playmate right away. That’s the only reason your older child’s excited about sharing the spotlight anyway. So, be upfront about what will happen once the new baby arrives.
Explain that the baby will be adorable, but they won’t be able to play with your toddler right away. They’d need some time to be big enough, and till then, they’ll need everyone’s love and attention as well as their big siblings’.
Include Them in The Planning
It doesn’t matter how young your toddler is; get them involved in preparation for the new baby’s arrival. Ask them to pick out clothes and toys for their new brother or sister when you buy baby stuff.
While fixing up the baby’s room using some of your toddler’s old stuff, make sure they’re okay with it.
Prepare Them for The Childbirth
If you decide to have your preschooler present during the labor and the actual birth, make sure you prepare them by watching birth videos together. Explain that you’ll be in pain, but there’s nothing to be worried about.
If you leave them home, ask a relative or friend to stay with them. Make them feel special by allowing them to be the first visitor to see their little sibling and give them a ‘big sibling gift’ from the baby.
Let Them Take Care of their New Sibling
Once the new baby arrives, teach your toddler how to hold a baby and explain why he needs to be gentle with their new brother or sister. Then ask them if they’d like to hold the baby. Help your child support the little one’s head.
Assign them responsibilities as big brother or sister like helping you to bathe and dress the baby.
Give them more ownership to let them feel like an important part of their little sibling’s life. This will also make it easier to look after a newborn and a toddler at the same time!
Give Them As Much Attention As Possible.
Ask the visitors to spend some time with your older child as well so that they don’t feel excluded. Have some small gifts around to give them when the baby gets gifts. Also, recognize and appreciate their efforts.
Praise them whenever they do something for the new baby.
Spend One-on-One Time with Your Older Child
Don’t let them feel left out while you’re busy taking care of the new baby. Set aside special time for your older child to do something together.
Maybe something that you both loved to do before the new baby came home.
Make Them Feel Special
Even if your older children don’t show any signs of insecurity or jealousy, make time for them. Give them lots of extra hugs and kisses. Make sure you don’t punish them if their behavior regress.
Assure them that nobody can take their place and you love them more than ever.
It will take some time for your older child to get used to the new family dynamic. But once the adjustment period is over, they’ll master the art of being an older sibling.
Before you know it, they’ll fall in love with their little playmate and start acting as a role model for them. And, in the future, they may even become a little jealous of their older sibling, so watch out for that…