Having a second baby is an exciting time but can be a big adjustment for your family, including your first child – who has been an only child up to that point!
Young ones can feel left out or cast aside as parents get busy with all the preparations and birth of a new baby. Your help will go a long way to prepare your firstborn for their new sibling and make the transition a smoother one.
Here are some tips to help prepare your toddler for a sibling before the new baby arrives:
1. Explain what is happening and what your child can expect
Children 2-4 are still quite attached to their parents and might feel jealous sharing your attention with a newborn. Explain that babies need lots of attention and will cry, sleep, eat frequently, need to be held a lot, and will need lots of diaper changes. Let your child know that much of your attention will be taken up with tending to these things, but that you still love them very much and they will have plenty of time too – and that their baby sibling won’t always take up this much time and attention!
2. Go through your child’s baby pictures and replay their own babyhood with them
One thing that can be a lot of fun for you and your child as you help prepare them for the new baby and what to expect, is for you to sit down with them and look through their baby album, explaining how you did all those things together when they were a baby, too. This can help them understand that infancy isn’t permanent, as even they went through it and, even in their short life, have already become less dependent.
3. Give your toddler a role in the family
Once your toddler better understands what will be happening with an incoming baby, it’s important to give him or her a role to be a part of it, feel included, and understand that every family member is important and contributes in their own way. Say that she/he will be the baby’s Big Sister/Big Brother, and help her/him enjoy being in that role.
4. Visit a friend who has an infant
This is a great way to really drive home to a young child what it means to have a baby around, before they actually have to confront the reality of it in their own life. Visit a friend with a newborn baby at home, and tell your child that soon your family and home will also have a baby in it. This will allow them to start understanding and imagining what that will really be like – and hopefully, getting excited about it!
6. Include your toddler in your preparations
If you help your toddler feel important and like they have some responsibility and weight in the decisions surrounding the new baby, that can help give them a sense of agency and power that can often be lost when a new baby arrives and disrupts the toddler’s sense of security and power that they had before all of these new changes. To include your toddler with these preparations, you can let them help you paint and set up the baby’s new room and help in the selection of baby items. This will help give them a sense of ownership and responsibility in thinking about what is good for the baby. He can also help you pack your hospital bag, wash the baby’s bottles, take a tour of the hospital and see the new babies, and go with you to hear the baby’s heartbeat or see an ultrasound too, which will all increase his feeling of investment in the whole process and this new little person.
You (and your firstborn!) are going to do great when baby gets here!