Once more, you’re a mom-to-be and, while you certainly know the drill when it comes to bringing another baby into the world, there’s something else that may be new to your household: The way an older sibling feels about a new baby entering their world.
Of course, you know siblings will play a special part in your new baby’s life, but at first it may be harder for the siblings to see it that way. They either sense instinctively or clearly understand that more attention will go to the newborn and by default, less attention will go to them. Based on their age, they’ll also have an idea that the overall way the family functions will be very different, too.
So what’s an older sibling to do? Whether a toddler, teen or somewhere in-between, your child may need help getting ready for the reality of a new baby. You can reassure the sibling-to-be by including them in preparations to welcome the little one to the family.
Preparing your toddler for the new baby
Toddlers, who range in age from 1 to 3 years, are more likely to grasp the concept of a new sibling once the baby is actually on the scene. Still, there are ways to help prepare your toddler for a new baby, starting with clear communication.
Share the good news
Based on your toddler’s level of understanding, try talking about the new baby before giving birth. This could be early on in the pregnancy or later, perhaps when you’re showing. You can also share pictures of the baby in your uterus and, once you’re showing, let your toddler talk to the baby, gently pat the baby and feel the baby move.
Make your toddler part of the planning
As you plan the baby’s room, let your older child help you decide what to add and help pick out items. You could also add a special gift to the room for the sibling-to-be, such as a kid-size table and chair, where the toddler can draw or play while you attend to the baby. You could also have your older child pick out a little gift for the baby, to give when the newborn comes home.
Be on the lookout for early signs of jealousy
Sure, the baby is still in your tummy, but your toddler’s been feeling the baby kick and knows something is going on in there! Your toddler sees that the growing bulge is getting your attention and even taking away your time for rest and prenatal visits. While a 2-year-old can’t always articulate feelings of jealousy about the coming baby, it’s still important for you to calmly acknowledge those feelings and offer reassurance and understanding.
Preparing your school-age child for the new baby
When you’re having a second baby and your older child is 5 years old and up, you can expect your firstborn to be more independent and a bit more anchored in the family setting. Another plus with a school-age sibling: The age difference means the siblings will have separate needs, so there’s less time juggling activities like changing diapers and potty training. But older siblings still need to adjust to this new, more demanding presence in the household. Here’s how you can help them do it.
Give advance notice
Even by the age of 5, most kids understand concepts like time and the difference between fantasy and reality. Which means it’s best to let your child know about the baby sooner rather than later — basically, as soon as you’ve confirmed the pregnancy yourself. Waiting until you begin showing could make it feel less like a shared experience for the older sibling and more like an unwelcome surprise.
It’s normal for parents to feel guilty about the changes ahead for their firstborn. It’s also tempting to try to make up for it by overdoing treats or giving into demands to lift the usual restrictions on playtime or TV watching. Stay strong! Indulging the older sibling could lead to problems such as the child feeling entitled and becoming even more demanding.
School-age kids are more likely to grasp what you’re getting at as you lay the groundwork for the newborn’s arrival home. Over the coming months, remind your child that when the baby comes home, it will cry a lot, sleep a lot and need many, many diaper changes. Assure your older child that although the baby will need lots of attention, you’ll always have time to give big brother or sister attention and affection, too.
Preparing your teenager for a new baby
It’s possible your teenage child will want to be actively involved helping you care for the new baby, especially during crucial times such as when you’re cooking dinner or trying to grab a nap. But the more likely scenario is that your teen will be far more involved in his own life, activities and friends. You’ll need a good balance of giving your teen space and asking her for active participation in the household — including occasional babysitting or diaper-changing. Here’s how to get your teenager ready for the life-changing event of having a new baby in the house.
Prepare to be surprised
After the big announcement, when you’ve told your teen you’re expecting, be ready to face a range of responses, from shock and doubt to happiness and excitement. The bottom line: Give big brother or sister enough time to think about this monumental change and try not to take it personally or react negatively if they don’t share your joy about the news. Even a “mature” teen might be seeing the new baby as competition—try to see the event from their viewpoint.
Welcome their part in the planning
From toddler to teen, most older siblings can benefit from having a role in preparing for the new baby. Ask the teen to help you pick out items for the baby’s room, drive you to prenatal appointments if they’re licensed and participate in any online prep classes that may be informative without being boring.
Keep the conversation going
Depending on your teen’s age, the first flush of joy at the news may be replaced by the thought “What will my friends say?” She may worry her friends will tease her about having parents who are obviously sexual (after all, they produced a baby!). Just try to keep talking with your teen about how he’s feeling about everything related to the baby. Don’t push it though, just be there, listening.
Prepare to celebrate the new baby—together
A new baby in the house may be crazy for a while, but it’s also something to celebrate. Your older child will one day realize the younger sibling is a forever friend. Not only that, it’s also a way for your child to connect with another person now and learn cooperation, sharing and empathy for others’ feelings and experiences. Be patient with your older child and keep things positive during your pregnancy, so you can help your child so you can help your child view the new baby as a welcome addition to the family.
To connect with other moms-to-be in San Antonio, ask questions and share advice, visit our Baby Bump Group on Facebook.
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