Especially for toddlers and young children, welcoming a new baby into the family can bring up emotions of confusion, frustration and even fear. These feelings can cause them to act out in negative ways, interfering with the entire family’s chance to have a positive experience throughout the transition. Here are our top five tips on how to help prepare your child for a new sibling during your pregnancy.
1. Set Expectations Verbally and Visually
Communication is key to setting your child’s expectations about having a new sibling. As you start to “show,” start by explaining that your family will be having a baby and that the baby is growing in your belly. Provide a general time frame for when the baby will arrive. It is helpful to associate the due date with a big event in your child’s life, e.g., after Thanksgiving, around your birthday, at the beginning of the summer, because young children’s sense of time is not well developed. As things progress, continue to explain what will be happening (the baby will want to eat and sleep a lot, the baby will sleep here, mom and dad will be going to the hospital to have the baby, etc.)
Make the idea of a new baby more of a reality for your child by looking at pictures of when he/she was born, as young children have an easier time dealing with new situations if you relate it to their own experiences. I made a photo book for my daughter before our second child was born. It included my pregnancy, ultrasound pictures, our stay in the hospital, all the people who came to visit her, what she was like as a baby, and what she was like when she started getting bigger.
2. Include Your Child in Your Prenatal Care
(This video is of my daughter along for a prenatal visit as we expected our 2nd! )
Depending upon your child’s age, it can be fun and informative to go to some of your appointments. He/she will get to hear the baby’s heart beat, measure your belly and ask the doctor questions. If your hospital allows it, also consider taking your child on a tour of the hospital/center where you’ll have the baby. These seemingly little things will have a big impact on your child’s understanding of all of the changes as they happen.
3. Visit With or Babysit for a Baby
One of the best ways for your child to get prepared for what it will be like with a newborn at home is to invite one into your home. Your child can practice some of the things you have been discussing, like being gentle with the baby, and get a firsthand feel for what a baby is really like, e.g., such as diaper changes and feedings!
4. Instill Sibling Pride
Do activities, read books, or give your child a special gift that helps demonstrate the exciting role of being a big brother or sister. These items will provide a much-needed touchstone of pride when it comes to the new baby.
5. Do Not Focus or Blame the Pregnancy or the New Baby for Disruptions/Changes in the Older Child’s Life
Hope these tips are helpful! Sign up for our regular blog updates so you can stay tuned for big sibling tips for during the delivery and after you bring your new baby home.