Whenever you add a new little one to your family, it changes the family dynamics and can be overwhelming for the kiddos you already have. Instead of simply bracing yourself for the jealousy and meltdowns, why not prepare your child throughout your pregnancy for the changes to come, so that they can adjust better when the baby finally arrives? Here are 4 ways you can start preparing your child for a new sibling.
1. Ask Your Child Questions about the New Baby
Preparing a toddler for a new sibling is practically impossible since most toddlers are still learning to talk and won’t understand what is going on even if you explain it to them. However, older children ages 3, 4, and up will benefit from conversations with you about the new baby! You can ask them questions about how they’re feeling about the baby’s arrival, if they have questions about how things will change or look in those early weeks postpartum, etc. You can also just talk about the baby in passing, like, “I wonder what color your little brother’s eyes will be! I think they might be blue. What do you think?”
As you talk about what it will be like having another member of the family around, you can gently and gradually prepare your child for what is to come. This way, they aren’t totally blindsided by all the inevitable change that comes with a baby’s arrival.
2. Prepare Your Child for the Things that will change, but also Reassure Them about What Things will Stay the Same
In addition to asking questions about the baby, you can also talk to your child about what it will be like to have a new brother or sister. They have no idea what to expect, so it’s wise to prepare them for both the fun and not-so-fun aspects of having a newborn join the family. For example, you could say, “Did you know that babies sleep a lot?” and talk about what kinds of activities might be fun to do while the baby is napping. Or talk about how babies cry and how they can help you soothe the baby by bringing you supplies or singing softly to the baby.
It’s important to explain that, while your attention will be split sometimes and you will be very busy caring for the baby, you will always love them and care for their needs too. Reassure them that they will be a great big brother/sister and that you are proud of them!
3. Prepare Special Activities and Toys that Your Toddler can Enjoy after the Baby’s Arrival
No doubt once your new baby arrives, your time will be split between the child(ren) you already have and the new little one. Having some independent play activities and new toys set aside specifically for older siblings can really help the transition and provide your kids with something to do while you’re busy tending to the baby’s needs.
4. Bring Your Child along to a few of your Prenatal Doctor’s Visits
If possible, share special moments like hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time or seeing the baby on ultrasound with your child. Having them along for the ride can help make this new season more fun and less scary or overwhelming.
“The arrival of a new baby can bring many changes to a family. Parents spend a lot of energy on preparations, and after the baby arrives, much of the family’s attention involves caring for the newborn. All this change can be hard for older siblings to handle. It’s common for them to feel jealousy toward the newborn and to react to the upheaval by acting out. But parents can prepare kids for an addition to the family. Discussing the pregnancy in terms that make sense to kids, making some arrangements, and including kids in the care of the newborn can make things easier for everyone.”KidsHealth.org