Congratulations — another baby is coming soon! One of your first thoughts upon seeing that positive pregnancy test may well have been, "How will this affect my older child?" The key to easing the transition: make big brother feel like an important part of the process and reassure him — through words, actions, or gestures — that he will still be loved.
What to Expect From Your Older Child
Reactions vary, but when a new baby arrives on the scene, it's common for kids to become clingy and revert to behaviors they'd given up, like wanting a bottle and talking baby talk. Conversely, some children react by withdrawing — you may notice that your little one seems sad or isn't as responsive as usual. Be empathetic and remember that news of a new baby in the family can leave your little one doubting her place in your heart. But with the right preparation, you can look forward to a happy sibling relationship.
Before the Baby Arrives
The baby's birth is months away — which means you have lots of time to get your child used to the idea, and maybe even excited about it. Here's how:
Tell him the news at the right time. It's often best to wait until you are into your second trimester — and your pregnancy is showing — to tell your preschooler that you are having a baby.
Make the idea of a baby real. For young children, "having a baby" is an abstract notion. Make the situation feel more concrete by talking about the new baby, showing your child the baby's room, and letting her feel the baby kicking inside your belly.
Take a family tour of the hospital. A few weeks before your due date, take him on a field trip to the hospital where you will deliver (or sign up for a sibling-prep class) to show him that hospitals aren't scary places.
Let her help buy things for the baby. You can ask her opinion on bedding, toys, and clothing, for example. Also, help her select a special present that she can give to her baby brother or sister when they first meet.
Play pretend. Kids this age love to make believe. You can play off this tendency by acting out a diaper change on your child's favorite doll. Explain, "Now we're going to put a diaper on our baby doll," so he gets a preview of what to expect with the real baby.
- Read books about babies. Add a few stories about babies to your child's reading repertoire. Some good choices: Our New Baby by Dee Shulman, Franklin's Baby Sister by Paulette Bourgeois, and What Shall We Do With the Boo-Hoo Baby? by Cressida Cowell and Ingrid Godon.
After Baby's Birth
Here's how to start the new siblings off on the right foot:
Make your child's hospital visit fun. Have her come see you and the baby. She'll be relieved to see that you are okay. Let her give the baby the gift she picked for him, and present her with a gift from the baby too.
Greet him warmly. When your big boy first arrives at the hospital, have someone else hold the baby so you can hug and cuddle your firstborn — first.
- Include your older child when caring for the baby. For example, say, "I'm going to change Susie's diaper. Do you want to bring your doll and diaper her too?" Or when it's time to feed the baby, tell your older child, "I'm going to feed Susie now. Are you hungry? Do you want to eat now too?"