Baby #2 on the way? Congratulations! Start preparing your child for a new sibling now, so you’ll have a smoother transition once baby arrives.
I clearly remember the excitement of announcing our second pregnancy. We had hoped for our daughter to have a sibling, and now I imagined how much fun it would be to raise two little girls.
They would be best friends. We’d buy matching outfits. Easy peasy, right?
That naivety certainly played out in those early days after bringing home our newest addition. There were some hard days of learning how to parent multiple kids. (We now have four and I’m still learning, to be honest.)
My then two-year-old certainly didn’t know the changes that would come as her reign as Queen of the Roost would be challenged by another competitor!
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Looking back, I think there were several things I could have done differently so we all would be more prepared, but especially the newly-oldest-sibling.
Because of course, as parents we at least have the experience of raising our firstborn (thus far), but our firstborn has NO frame of reference for life with a baby 24/7!
Below are just a few ideas that can help make the transition easier and help your child prepare for a new sibling- now, and ongoing.
1| Get them involved in the prep work
This is probably the most popular piece of advice you’ll hear, but it’s true: getting your oldest child involved in the process is tremendously important.
Some ideas to tweak to their ability level:
- Let them pick out baby clothes
- Get their input on the baby’s room decor and baby gear
- Let them help paint the room, furniture or organize baby supplies
- Ask their opinions on baby names
- Let them help make freezer meals
Those are just a few of the practical aspects. If they’re going to be sharing a room with the baby, start preparing your child well in advance and make small changes over time.
Whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute to move everything in! Big changes are made easier by incremental steps.
2| Exposure Therapy
Ok, I’m not actually talking about true exposure therapy where you face a fear head-on because becoming familiar with the fear decreases the anxiety.
BUT, giving your child hands-on experience with a baby can be a great primer for what’s to come, especially if they’re not around babies much. Tackle the fear before it becomes one!
You could visit the church nursery or make some extra visits to a family member or friend with a baby. Watch videos together about how to care for babies.
In addition, having a special baby doll at home for your child to learn to hold and handle with care is a wonderful and gentle way to keep the conversation and practice going.
3| Share the miracle of new life
Ultrasound pictures are a great place to start discussing how babies grow…and as much info as is age-appropriate in that regard.
There are many great books about and the miracle of life and being part of a family, including:
The Wonder that is You (baby-4 years)
God Made Polliwogs and Puppy Dogs (Ages 2-5)
Nine Months (Ages 4-8)
4| Celebrate their promotion
Whether your new big sibling is a toddler or a little older, most young kids want to be seen as “big”. As you prepare for a newborn, you need to capitalize on this yearning!
If you haven’t already, start giving your child some big-kid responsibilities. Give them specific age-level tasks like setting the table for dinner or sweeping the floor.
Make picking up toys a part of the nightly routine before bed. This will help in more ways than one, since you’ll have two children making messes soon. 😉
Discuss what it means to be the older sibling in detail. Think of all the privileges and responsibilities that go with the title: teaching the baby new things, protecting him/her, being a role model and being helpful around the house.
Maybe even consider having a big brother or big sister celebration with a cake, a few gifts and the works!
You know your child, so think about their level of sensitivity and what will speak to them and bolster their confidence in their new role. This book has some more ideas as well.
5| Read books about being a big sibling
Along with child development, books that focus on the role of siblings are another great tool to prepare your child.
Here’s a few great picks that we’ve loved:
Big Brother Daniel (Ages 1-5)
You’re Getting a Baby Brother (ages 2-5)
You’re Getting a Baby Sister (ages 2-5)
God Gave us Two (ages 3-7)
6| Plan one-on-one time
One of the hardest things once a new baby arrives is feeling like you don’t have enough time to spend with your former baby.
P.S., your former baby’s head will look HUGE once you hold your 2nd newborn. It’s a thing, trust me. Don’t freak out!
But back to that individual time. Check out this list of one-on-one activities and plan some things you can do now, before baby arrives, and later.
The dynamic truly does change especially in those first few months when you’re lucky to get a shower or even leave the house. But thinking about simple activities now will save you time later when you’re too tired to do much of anything!
Reading books or watching a cartoon together may not be an entirely individual activity with a baby snoozing on your chest, but it will still mean the world to your big kid.
When you have some help from dad or other family, taking a walk nearby, blowing bubbles outside or just watching your child play will help them to realize you still have time for them.
Grace: enough for all
I truly think transitioning from one child to two is one of the hardest, because it’s a new process for everyone in the house.
You’re all learning this new routine and adjusting to a new life. No matter how purposeful you are, there will be times that your older child will have hurt feelings and think you are leaving them out or have forgotten them.
I remember one particularly hard day with my newborn and toddler at the time, where I completely lost my cool with my older child and felt guilty about my behavior for days. It was one of many parenting moments I still cringe at, but tried to learn from.
If you find yourself yelling at your older child out of frustration, just stop what you’re doing, take a breather and ask for forgiveness. It’s important for us to set the example of humility and strive to be a calm parent.
It’s also important to know when we’re overwhelmed and need to develop coping skills or get help from others so we can move forward.
Adjusting to your growing family
As you prepare your child for a new sibling and beyond – just remember to keep reassuring them that you will all adjust to this new little person and you are so glad that they are part of the team.
Involve them whenever/wherever possible, and show them patience as they learn along with you.
Also, try to keep smiling! It does wonders for the atmosphere in your home. (I seriously need reminded of this, often!)
Your child will soon grow into their role as the big sibling, and they will see that there’s enough love to go around for everyone. They will discover the rewards of having a sibling — even through the jealousy and eventual fights that will arise.
We are raising human children, after all!
Yes, your relationship with your oldest baby will change, but they’ll always be your baby. Just like each child will always be, in fact.
And with a lot of grace and understanding, your family will take on a new normal that even your big kid will come to embrace.