Preparing Your First Child for a New Sibling
One of the things I’ve been most excited about throughout this pregnancy is the anticipation of making my preschooler a big brother – of watching that sibling relationship between Liam and our future baby. My relationship with my sister and brother, both in terms of the fun we had growing up and the bond and friendship we share as adults, is one of the most cherished aspects of my life and the idea of creating that relationship for Liam and his future sibling feels so special.
But as much as there is enough excitement to go around, I’m also trying to make sure we’re all prepared for the new reality that’s coming our way very soon. Liam has been the only show in town for almost four years now and you can tell he’s grown accustomed to it – we all have. He’s used to being the center of attention. He’s used to being cared for in a way that probably exceeds what a nearly-four-year-old boy requires. He’s used to an existence where his needs don’t need to compete with anyone else’s and all of that is about to change. We’ve tried to spend the past few months helping him (and really all of us) prepare for the change ahead. Here are a few steps we’ve taken to prepare our child for a new sibling.
Tips for Preparing Big Brother for a New Baby
Talk about what is going to change. As we prep our house and lives for the new baby, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about what things will be different once the baby gets here. We talk about how he and the baby will share a room eventually, but at first, the baby will sleep with Mommy and Daddy just like he did when he was a baby. We talk about how the baby will need to sleep and eat and have its diaper changed all the time and how sometimes we won’t be able to do things right when he wants to because of the baby. It’s going to be a big change for all of us and the less he feels surprised by it, the better we’ll all be.
If possible, practice. Close friends of ours recently had twin babies which turned out to be wonderful timing for Liam. Since we see them frequently, he’s had a chance to be around little babies and see how careful you need to be around them, hear their cries, see Brad and I hold them and hold them himself. He commented on how small they were and how much they slept. It definitely seemed to help him understand what to expect from a new baby and that he’s not getting an instant playmate when we come home from the hospital.
Talk about their babyhood. I’ve found it has been really helpful to talk about this pregnancy and baby in the context of my pregnancy and early days with Liam. He loves seeing pictures and videos of himself as a baby and can’t believe that he’s the one in my belly in the photos from my first pregnancy. He also loves hearing stories about himself as a baby. It’s a lot of fun to talk about those memories with him but it’s also a great way to talk about what’s going on (and what’s to come) with the new baby.
Talk about what role the big sibling will have. It’s probably different with every child depending on their personality and developmental stage, but Liam is in a huge “helper” phase right now. Nothing makes him feel more special than getting a task to help his mom or dad. We talk a lot about how Liam will be able to be our special helper once the baby comes, going to fetch diapers and burp clothes, and helping to soothe the baby by singing songs and reading books. He seems to love the idea of being a special helper with the new baby.
Work on independence skills. We have been shamefully bad about doing things for Liam that he probably should be doing for himself by now – like changing his clothes, picking up toys, carrying him around when he is clearly capable of walking…the list goes on. We’ve tried really hard to work on those preschool independence skills over the past few months as a way to help all of us be more ready for the change ahead.
But, expect some regression. A few times recently, Liam has asked me to hold him like a baby – no easy feat for a lady who is eight months pregnant and he’s a pretty big preschooler. I’ve noticed he’s also grown increasingly cuddly with me, which something I love, but also suspect is no doubt connected to the changes happening around him. As much as Liam is growing up and showing us how big and independent he is on a daily basis, he’s also still little and has the right to act that way sometimes.
The other day Liam was snuggling with my belly and giggling, telling me how the baby was kicking him (a regular occurrence these days), when he stopped and looked very serious all of a sudden. He turned to me and said, “Mama, even when the baby comes I’ll always be your baby too, right?” Yes buddy, I couldn’t have said it better myself. No matter what, you will always be my baby.
How did you prepare your child for the addition of a new baby? Anything I’m not thinking about that worked well or that you wished you’d done?
- E-family news: Becoming a Sibling – Who Said I Wanted a New Baby?
- Bright Horizons Online Community: Telling Your Older Child You’re Pregnant
- Read more posts about pregnancy and posts about siblings from the Family Room bloggers