Preparing Your Young Child for a New Sibling
Tips for Helping Your Child Transition From “Only” to “Older Sibling”
Parents consider many factors when deciding whether to have a second or third child. Or for that matter a fourth or fifth. Money, time, support, space…patience! The right number of children is the number both parents agree on. I could easily speak to the advantages of having one child or having many. But as this article focuses on preparing your child for a new sibling, let’s think briefly about the benefits of having more than one child. Most sibling relationships, if not immediately, will eventually develop into a close one. Working things out with siblings gives your children a chance to develop important skills like cooperating and being able to see another person’s point of view. Simply put, they learn to get along. Siblings often become confidante’s and best friends. Siblings can be someone to bounce ideas off, someone to play with, someone to lean on, and as is the case for many families today, someone to share the responsibilities of caring for an elderly parent.
When introducing the idea of a new sibling, parents should consider a child’s development and temperament. Think about when your child or his peers will “notice.” Does your child do better with a lot of preparation or does that cause him some anxiety? If possible, try to avoid telling your child about a new sibling during any other major developmental changes (potty training, new bed, etc). Here are some additional ideas for preparing your child for a new sibling:
- Make sure you tell the other grownups in your child’s life whether they know or don’t know and when you plan to tell them
- If your older child is ready to move in to a bed, make the change well before the new sibling begins to use the crib.
- Visit friends with babies
- Read children’s books about new babies and what they’re like
- Share pictures and videos with your child from their own babyhood. Talk to them about it. Let them ask questions about what they liked, etc.
- Involve the older sibling in the preparations. Have them pick out a blanket, special wall hanging, etc. Put these things in a separate spot so that your child knows this is for the baby. Have your child make signs for their room and baby’s room
- Have a baby doll, diaper, bottle etc for your baby to parent. Yes, this is okay for boys as well, and is especially important for younger children
- You might even have your child pick out a gift for his or her new sibling and buy one for your older child “from the baby.”
Bottom line, regardless of how they react initially, positively or with concern, your child will learn to love their sibling. It’s a major change to have been an “only” and then share space, time, and parents with someone else. But in the same way your young child became familiar with their first norm, having a sibling will soon become the norm as well. More likely than not, your child will be thankful for the wonderful gift you have given them. And congratulations!