Excited about your pregnancy, but nervous about how your older child will react? If you prepare your child before hand then the process can be easier. Different ages react differently, but with some planning, you can ensure your child gets as excited about the new baby as you are.
There is no “perfect” time to break the news to your child, but most experts agree that:
- They need to hear it from you.
- They need to feel involved in the build-up to the birth.
Preparing The One-Two Year Old For A Sibling
Children this age do not understand much. The best any parent can do to prepare them for their new sibling is:
- Start saying words like baby, brother/sister in an excited voice. Your toddler will start feeling your excitement and your attitude should rub off on them.
- When the baby arrives, try to make it an exciting time for them. Spend time with them doing things that are normally considered a special treat. They will associate the arrival of the baby with an exciting event.
Preparing The Two-Four-Year-Old For A Sibling
Toddlers between the ages of two and four years old are emotionally attached to their parents, and very territorial. They are also sensitive and feel very threatened by change.
Introducing a new sibling to a child this age needs careful planning. Here are tips to help them accept and get excited about the new addition to their family.
Don’t Tell Them Right Away
They hear the news from you first, but it is advisable to tell them when “things start happening”. When they see changes and get curious, you can answer their questions in a natural setting. Start introducing the topic of a new sibling when they can visualize changes like:
- Your stomach starts growing.
- You start preparing the baby room.
- You start getting gifts for or start buying things for the baby.
Always Be Honest
A toddler needs to understand that their sibling will result in a few changes around the home. Explain that the new baby will:
- Take up a lot of your time.
- Cry a lot, both day and night.
- Will not be able to immediately recognize or play with them.
Involve Them In The Planning
Involve them as much as possible in the preparations. You may want to buy your toddler a life-size doll to play with a few months before the birth. Show them baby photos of themselves and bring out some of their old toys that “they” can give to the baby.
Studies show that toddlers feel less threatened and are less jealous when parents:
- Include them when they shop for the new baby.
- Allow them to assist in preparing the baby room.
- Allow them to touch baby’s toys, especially if they are their hand-me-downs.
Do Not Change Their Routine
Toddlers are very sensitive to change. Do not rush milestones (potty training) or change their routine because of the new baby. If you are going to move them to a big bed, or another room, time it well. Either do it before they know about the pregnancy, or after the baby is home and settled.
Expect Them To Regress
Despite all your careful planning, your toddler may still regress both physically and emotionally. It is not unusual for them to:
- Revert to before they were fully potty trained.
- Want to drink from their bottle.
- Start sucking their thumb.
If they regress in any way, it is important to not make a fuss. Rather praise them when they act “grown-up”. If you manage this stage correctly, they will soon revert to normal behavior.
Prepare Them For Your Hospital Stay
Prepare them for the few days that you will be in the hospital. Explain to them that you will go away for a while, but that you will come back. Try leaving them for a few hours at a time a few months before you are hospitalized. Before you go out, tell them you are going out but will be back. When you come back, enforce the fact that you returned. It won’t be long before they accept that you always come when you say you will.
What To Do When Baby Comes Home
Ensure that your toddler gets to spend time with you as a family, before entertaining visitors. Once people start visiting, encourage them to:
- Always address the toddler first. Allow your toddler to introduce their sibling to the visitors.
- Do not put undue pressure or expectations on your toddler. They are still little and may feel overwhelmed. Try to avoid the label “big brother/sister” if it comes with expected behavior.
Preparing The Child 5 Years And Older For Their Sibling
This age group may not feel threatened by a new sibling, but they may resent the attention it is getting. Luckily, children this age can understand, so parents can engage with them and prepare them properly.
Ways to prepare your school-going age child for their new sibling include:
- Be honest about the changes the baby will bring. Tell them about both the good and the bad changes, and how they may be affected.
- Allow them to help with all the preparations.
- Let them spend some time with other babies before their sibling arrives.
- Don’t neglect their routine or the “alone time” you spend with them both before and after the birth. They must never feel like they are being replaced.
- Ensure they see the baby before any other friends or family. This will cement their importance in the family.
Parkland Children’s Academy, A Family Oriented Preschool in Parkland
Parkland Children’s Academy takes pride in providing quality child care for you and your children. We would love to meet you in person and take you on a tour of our facility. Contact us at 954-688-5877 or find us on Facebook.