Preparing Your Older Children for a New Baby

A new baby can bring plenty of amazing feelings and challenges to a family. As an expecting parent, being excited and nervous is common and normal. While this may be something that you have had planned for a while, the arrival of a sibling may elicit the question of How do I tell my child that they’re going to be a sibling?   The answer, unfortunately, is not set in stone and can be hard for expecting parents to answer. Many questions will arise for expecting parents including: How will our older children react to the news? Will they get along? Will they get jealous/angry/sad/disappointed? How can I support their emotional needs?   Children will react differently depending on their age. Depending on the age of your older children, some may be more than excited to have a sibling while others may feel confused and/or upset.   Children 2 years and younger
  • At this age, toddlers will not understand what it means to ‘add to the family’ or ‘new baby’. Being excited when talking of the ‘new baby’ will allow for your toddler to understand that it is a good situation and one to be happy about.
    • Children’s books about having a new baby in the family:
      • You Were the FirstBy Patricia MacLachlan
      • A New Baby Is Coming!: A Guide for a Big Brother or SisterBy Emily Menendez-Aponte and R.W. Alley
    • Spending time with your toddler and reassure them that you love them the same amount as their new sibling.
  Children 2 – 4 years
  • At this age your child may be more sensitive to change and can seem more attached to you. The idea of adding a new family member may cause anxiety and weird feelings for your child that they cannot communicate.
    • Be honest with your child! Let them know right away that there will be another brother or sister arriving.
    • Wait until your pregnancy is well established by your doctor (sometime after your first trimester) when the chance of miscarriage decreases.
    • Prepare your child for when you are in the hospital, let them understand you will return.  This will assist in healthy attachment forming for the both of you.
    • Spend quality time with your child, let them know that the new baby may bring new changes AND that you will love them regardless.
  Children 5 years and older
  • At this age, children are able to understand what is means and looks like to have a baby in the household. The idea of adding a new family member may cause less stress, but nevertheless to understand that it is okay for them to feel weird.
    • Prepare your child for the role as the oldest sibling and discuss ways in which they can help.  Encourage the child to interact with the new baby, but always ask if they want to first.  For example, Would you like to hold the baby?vs Come hold the baby.
    • Make an effort to spend quality time with each child. Let them know how much you love and care for them.
    • Inform your child what it is like to have a new baby in the household in language that they can understand depending on their age.
  As parents and caregivers we must always take our oldest children’s thoughts and feelings into consideration when informing them about having a new child in the family. This is not a linear process and varies from child and family. If you are interested in receiving support for yourself and family in preparing for a new addition, please contact Therapy Etc.