As your family grows, no matter how old your child is, adapting to a new baby in the home is a big adjustment. How children handle becoming siblings depend upon their age. Here are some ways you can help your child prepare to become a big brother as you introduce him to his little sister and how each age group handles the transition to siblinghood.
Toddler Age (1-2 Years)
At this age he’s going to pick up on your emotions more than he’s going to understand the arrival of his sister. Talk about her with excitement to keep him positive. You can expand his concept of a new baby by looking at picture books together. Get him familiar with the word brother, sister and baby.
Another thing he’s not going to understand is no longer being the sole center of attention. Get the support of your family to meet the needs of both children. While you attend to your baby’s needs, have him spend some quality time with dad, his grandparents or other extended family members to reassure he’s loved. When baby arrives, have him receive a gift from his sister to help him see her as a real live person.
Preschool Age (3-4 Years)
He’s just beginning to learn how to share toys at playtime and children at this age can be sensitive to change. You want to take a different approach in how you talk to him about the baby. He needs to feel reassured of your love for him but you need to be honest about what he’ll experience. Explain how tiny and adorable his new sister will be but how often she’ll cry, talk about the attention she’ll need and make sure he knows they won’t be able to play together right away. When it comes time to deliver her, let him know about your stay in the hospital but make it clear he’ll be able to come and visit you and the baby soon.
Other Helpful Tips:
- Get him involved before and after the baby's born. Take him with you baby shopping. Once the baby is born, look for small ways he can help out with his little sister. He can bring a toy to show her, sing her a song or read her a story.
- Set aside some time for him. Read, play games or simply talk. He needs to know that you want to spend time with him. While you’re feeding his sister, sit and watch his favorite TV show together.
- Ask others to spend time with him when they come to see the baby. This will make him feel special. Just like the younger age group, have him spend time with his father or other close family members.
At this age, be patient with him. Jealousy is normal and he might regress in some situations to make sure he still has your love and attention. He might want to drink from a bottle instead of his sippy cup. He could also have “accidents” even though he’s toilet trained. Remember to praise and reward him for his “big boy” behavior. Speaking of potty training, think about timing. Try to finish training before the baby is born or put it off until she gets more settled at home. Not only will it benefit his routine, it will make things less overwhelming for you.
Elementary School Age (5 and older)
Older children tend to have a better understanding of what a new baby in the home means but cannot grasp the concept of how demanding a newborn can be. Explain the changes he’s going to experience on his level. Kids his age don’t display the jealousy but can resent the baby getting more attention. The key is to make him feel included. Have him help you prep the nursery, be sure he’s there to see the baby in the hospital. Depending upon his age, teach him to properly hold his sister and be loving and gentle with her.
It’s important you don’t overlook his needs and activities either. Have your significant other or a trusted family member or friend watch his sister as you cheer him on at his soccer game or take the evening to watch him in his school play. Make the effort to spend some one-on-one time with him. As he adjusts to becoming a big brother, he needs to be reminded he is special.