Getting Big Brother or Sister Ready for a New Baby

Making the News Appropriate for Your Child

The way you present the big news to your children will depend on a number of factors, such as their age and their stage of development. In general, older children are usually excited for a new brother or sister, while younger children may be confused and even upset. Research has shown that a child's personality has the most effect on how they react to a new baby. It has also been shown that children who have the closest relationship with their mother tend to show more difficulties after the baby is born; those who have a closer relationship with their father tend to adjust better.
In addition, your child's stage of development may affect how they share your attention. For example, a two-year-old will likely have difficulty adjusting to a new baby. This is because children of this age still require a large amount of time with mom and dad.
To help your child adjust well, you may consider some tips that are age-appropriate. Some of these tips include:
  • Children age two and younger: The news of a new baby may be a difficult concept for them to understand at this age. You may want to have some picture books about babies and families, which explain what it means to be a big brother or sister.
  • Children age two to four: This age group may feel that they won't get as much attention from you after the baby arrives. Try to explain that the baby will need a lot of attention at first, and encourage your older child that he or she can be a big help in this department. You can even try taking him or her shopping for baby supplies, or even going through some of their old clothes to help pick out some for the new baby. Other ideas for easing the transition in this age group may include:
    • Reading books about babies and what it means to be a big brother or sister. There are also some videos that help relay this information in an age-appropriate way.
    • Giving your child a doll so he or she can learn how to take care of a baby. Teach them how to hold the baby gently and to support the head.
    • Going through your child's baby pictures and telling them what it was like when they were born. Tell them about how excited you were when they were born.
  • School-age children: Children who are a little bit older may also feel some jealousy about how much attention the new baby gets. However, older children can understand what your newborn's needs may be, so you can discuss ways that they can be involved and how to ensure they will still get the attention they need. It can give them reassurance in knowing that you are still going to have that time alone with them so they won't be lost in the shuffle. Other ideas may include:
    • Letting your older children know about the advantages of being older, such as getting to play with certain toys and being able to stay up later.
    • Having friends or family members plan special outings with your older children so they receive that little bit of extra attention.
    • Getting your older child involved with the preparation of the new baby, such as having them draw or paint some artwork for the nursery.
    • Talking to them about how much they might want to be involved, such as if they want to help hold the baby, help with feedings, or have some playtime every day. Also, talk to them about concerns they might think they will have; helping to address them early on can make it easier down the road.
If you have several children, you may want to find a way somewhere in the middle that is fitting for all of them to hear. Once you've got your plan in place on when and how to tell your children about the new addition, it's time to put the plan into action.
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