8 Ways to Prepare Your Child for a Little Brother or Sister
Welcoming a new child is wonderful and weird—and a wholly different experience the second time around. This time, it’s less about whether your baby is the size of a jicama (what's up with those obscure fruit measurements, btw?) and more about how your “big” kid will handle the big change. Here are nine ways to get them ready for their new role.
Books, books and more books
Whether you’re busting out their old baby books ("See how little you once were?!") or bonding via the Berenstain Bears, reading with your child about the baby’s impending arrival ticks so many boxes: Cuddle time? Check. A stress-free conversation starter? Check. A reason to collapse on the couch? We see zero downside to this whole sibling thing.
Plan one-on-one time
While roller coasters and ice rink romps may no longer be an option, there are still plenty of special adventures you can have with your kid before you go on postpartum lockdown. Also think hard about how you can carve out solo time after the baby comes. (Line up early a.m. childcare so you can do school drop-off; make Saturday Tae Kwon Do your special thing.) Your older child will come to rely on this unchanged aspect of his life, which just may help rein in the rivalry.
Put yourself in their (little) shoes
Anticipate your child’s questions about who will stay with her when mommy and daddy go to the hospital to have the baby—and have specific answers ready. Walk her through exactly how that day will go down, with as many—or as few—details as she seems to need.
Hang out around babies
If a friend has an infant, schedule a play date to ooh and ahh over his tiny toes—and lay down some ground rules: “We only touch the baby on his tummy or his feet, never near his eyes.” Try out speaking in hushed tones. A little practice will make big bro feel like a pro.
Make it Personal
Experts suggest empowering your child by making him central to the storyline of your growing family. Talk about “your new baby brother” as opposed to “the baby.”
Don’t discuss it too early
A young child’s concept of time is fuzzy at best. Some experts advocate not revealing your news until the bump is clearly visible (beware the blabbing relative and nosy neighbor). Others recommend anchoring the announcement around a tangible timeline—as in, "Your baby sister will be here right around Halloween."
Keep sleeping arrangements status quo
If you’re fantasizing about moving your older child out of his crib or redecorating his room to accommodate the baby, try to make this change midway through your pregnancy. Otherwise, sleep the baby in a bedside bassinet as long as you can. The bottom line? Either change your sleeping sitch early enough or hold off as long as possible. What you don’t want is a wandering, wide-awake toddler after you’ve just gotten your newborn down for his two-hour 3 a.m. snooze.
Accept the inevitable
They may scratch. They may butt heads (uh, yeah, we mean that literally). The tantrums may boil and the tears may flow. Sibling rivalry is totally a thing. Your best bet is to empathize, reflect their feelings back to them and reassure them of your love. A kid's capacity for rage may shock you—but then again, so will the depth of his brotherly love.