7 Tips to Prepare Your Child for a New Sibling

Baby and Pregnancy
Photo: Myung Won-Seo

Congratulations, your family is about to grow by one teeny nose, two tiny feet, and one loud mouth!

Exciting, stressful, and joyful changes are coming, but if you already have a child in the family, they might think all the changes are overwhelming and confusing. Mommy’s tummy is growing, your child may need to move out of their room or into a new bed, and then suddenly they aren’t the only centre of attention anymore. What on earth is going on?

It’s important to keep your child in the loop and be prepared for what’s coming. Here are some tips to help you and your child get ready for their new sibling.

Have patience.

As a rule of thumb, most women know to postpone announcing their pregnancy until they start their second trimester due to the higher risk of miscarriage. It’s best to wait until you have passed this threshold before informing friends and family that you’re expecting, including your child. Trying to explain to your child that they were going to have a new brother or sister, and aren’t anymore can be very confusing to them.

Also, avoid promising a specific gender of the baby before you have a definitive answer from an ultrasound. Before 20 weeks, ultrasounds are not always accurate in determining gender. It’s safer to reveal if your child is getting a brother or sister after an ultrasound at 20 weeks, which is 95%–100% accurate.

Only answer the questions they ask.

Once kids learn to speak, they tend to ask a lot of questions. “How?”, “Why?”, and “When?” are just a few examples of the many you are sure to hear.

Only answer the questions they ask. Depending on your child’s age, “How?” can be an especially tricky one. They may just need to realize that babies aren’t picked like at a store; they come from mommy. Stick with simple, non-specific answers, and if they push further then go from there.

Once the baby finally comes, and if your new baby is a different gender than your other child, be prepared with an answer to “What’s that?” when your older child sees you change a diaper. Hopefully “That’s where pee pee comes out for boys/girls.” is enough to satisfy their curiousity.

Make it about them.

When the baby arrives and the attention you’ve been giving your child needs to be split, it’s easy for your older child to become jealous and even resentful. To prevent this, make the coming of the baby all about your child.

Instead of saying “mommy and daddy are having a baby” say “you are getting a new baby sister or brother”. It’s “your baby brother/sister”, not “our/mommy’s baby”.

Explain that things will change.

Be honest with your child. It is inevitable that you simply cannot and will not have as much time or energy to spend with your older child.

Your child needs to know ahead of time so it doesn’t come as a shock that even though mommy and daddy are going to be a lot busier, they still love them as much as always and will do their best to do things with them when they can.

Set up the nursery early.

If your child needs to move out of their room, change beds, or make space for the baby, make the move as early as possible so your child can get used to it. Also, making the move closer to the arrival and presence of the baby may create a bigger link to the displacement, which can cause jealousy or anger.

Practice with them.

As early as age 1, your child can help you with certain baby tasks. Something as simple as asking them to get you a clean diaper can go a long way to make them feel special, needed, and loved, because you’re giving them attention.

The older your child is, the more they can help: use a doll with them to practice holding, feeding, diaper changing, and rocking.

Have them spend time around babies.

If your child has never seen a baby, it’s time to introduce them to a tiny human they can expect to invade their home in the near future.

Spending time with babies will get your child used to the idea of you holding another child, which prevents jealousy once your own baby arrives. Your child will also notice that babies cry and need a lot of attention, which takes some getting used to. They may not like it, but at least they’ll know what to expect.

Books About a New Sibling To Read Together

There are many books written specifically to help children wrap their minds around a new addition to the family. Here are a few to consider purchasing for the future big sister or brother to help them with the transition.

1. The New Small Person by Lauren Child (Puffin, 2014 | ages 4–8)

2. Look at Me! by Rachel Fuller (Child’s Play, 2010 | ages 1–3)

3. I’m Going to be a Big Sister and I’m Going to be a Big Brother by Brenda Bercun (Nurturing Your Children Press, 2007 | ages 3–5)

4. I‘m a Big Brother by Joanna Cole (HarperCollins, 2010 | ages 4–8)

5. The New Baby by Mercer Mayer (Random House, 2001 | ages 3–7)

6. Best Ever Big Sister by Karen Katz (Penguin, 2006 | ages 2–5)

7. We Have a Baby by Catheryn Rockwell (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999 | ages 1–4)

8. Hello Baby by Lizzy Rockwell (Dragonfly Books, 2000 | ages 3–7)

9. What Baby Needs by William Sears, Martha Sears, Christie Watts Kelly (Little Brown, 2001 | ages 1–8)

10. 101 Things To Do With Baby by Jan Ormerod (Groundwood Books, 2014 | ages 4–5)

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