Becoming a big brother or a big sister – and adding a whole new person to your life – is a big transition for anyone. These are some tips that helped us prepare our child for a new sibling. These are all very simple ideas, but they are ones that help you start a conversation with your child about what life with a baby will be like. Both through pretend play and through pictures and conversation, you can begin to see what your child is thinking about, nervous about, and even excited about, welcoming a new little one into your home.
Tips to Prepare For a New Sibling
- Role play: Show your child all the ways you and he will interact with the baby: how to hold a baby, how babies eat, how they are changed, bathed, go on walks. This works really well with a doll or stuffed animal. If you can find one that can be washed, even better.
- Hospital tour: We drove by hospital, showed them where they would park, where they would go in to the hospital. We were also able, as part of our hospital’s sibling class, to tour the maternity ward and see newborn babies.
- Sleepover Practice – If you will be staying away overnight when the baby is born, try to do a few practice sleepovers. If your child will be staying with friends or relatives, or if friends or relatives will be staying with your child in your home, try to get in a practice run or two. This will make it easier for your child as they will know what to expect.
- Look at Pictures: Show your child lots of pictures – of them when they were born, when you were pregnant with them. Get pictures of them doing different things – sleeping, eating, crying, tummy time. This is a fun way to talk about life with a baby – and your child will love looking at the pictures!
- Books: My favorite big sibling book is My New Baby by Annie Kubler. It’s gender neutral and wordless, which makes it great for discussions with your child. As you look through the pages, you can get an idea of what’ they’re thinking about and worried about in connection with the new baby. Others we have are I’m a Big Sister by Joanna Cole What Baby Needs by George and Martha Sears, and I’m a New Big Brother by Nina Gaydos.
- Talk to them about it: Talk through the plan for where they will be and what they’ll be doing when and immediately after the baby is born. Who will watch them, when they will see you, where they will sleep, when will they meet the new sibling. My kids even wanted to know which door they would walk in at the hospital.
- Let them choose a present: Letting your child select a small present for the new baby helps them feel included, and excited about meeting “their” new baby.
- Follow their lead: It seems like everyone – from store clerks to family members – wants to emphasize how “big” your child will be now that he or she will have a baby sibling. Being suddenly “big” can be a scary idea. My oldest was very excited about it, but felt that he was more “medium” than “big.” My second child wanted it to be clear that he was still a “little” boy, although he would still be an older brother. He sought reassurance on that point several times a day, and always whenever someone else talked about how “big” he was getting.
- Visit a baby: Do you know anyone with a baby? If they are willing, you can bring your child to visit that baby. Just be sure you know that family’s rules and communicate it clearly to your child. Some families like little kids to just wave at the baby, some let kids touch the baby’s feet – everyone feels differently depending on the age of the baby and your child. As long as you set the expectations with your child beforehand, a visit with a new baby can help make the idea of a “baby” real.
- Home Set Up: Let your child help get out the diapers, blankets, wipes, etc. While you’re setting up the room, even toddlers can do tasks such as putting diapers in a diaper carrier.