How to Help Your Child Prepare for a New Sibling
Updated: Mar 27
Welcoming a new bundle of joy is an exciting time for any parent and the blessing you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived, and you can’t wait to show them all the love and devotion in the world. However, this is often a difficult and stressful time for a sibling if they haven't experienced it before.
A newborn being welcomed to your family may not always be a good and exciting thing to an older or first child. The thought of losing all of their parent’s attention and care may bring about feelings of unease, jealousy and sometimes resentment. Children's reactions and emotions can sometimes be hard to understand and can often make the transition a difficult time for expecting parents.
However, you can avoid all this confusion and unrest by preparing your older child well in advance so that the arrival of a new family member is well received and an exciting time for them. The following is a guide to preparing your child for a new baby or sibling.
Tell your child about the news as early as you can
Experts advise that the sooner you tell your young child of a new sibling and newborn, the sooner they can adjust and get used to the idea of welcoming a new brother or sister into your family. When you find out you are expecting and you have got to a secure point in the pregnancy it’s advisable to tell the older children as soon as you can so they can start to adapt and be excited about their new sibling.
It is a great way of involving them in the journey of your pregnancy and will help them understand if you start experiencing morning sickness and you aren't feeling one hundred per cent. It can be a confusing time for them if they don’t understand why you're feeling tired or unwell so always adapt your communication with them dependent on their age.
In cases where a family adopts or has the child via a surrogate, starting the conversation early will help them understand why the baby won’t be visible until they are born. It is a great time to let your child ask all the questions they may have after telling them about the new sibling they will have.
Talk to your child about the positives of a new baby arriving, and how it will benefit them and you as a family. They will be able to help you when the baby arrives, they will have lots of cuddles and as they get older they will have a brother or sister to play with. Remember that your child will need time to get used to the idea, so it's a good idea to tell the,m as soon as you can, gently and in general conversation without it being the sole thing that you talk about.
Remind them of their time as a baby
If your child continues to show nervousness and uncertainty about the coming baby, remind them about them as a baby and what a lovely time it was. Show them photos and videos and talk to them about how you fed them, changed their nappies and what a lovely and cherished time it was and how you are looking forward to them sharing this with you.
Try not to oversell their new sibling
Your language and communication go a long way toward determining how your child perceives the news of the new baby. Don’t talk about it too much, let them provoke the conversations and ask their questions and if they don’t then gently bring it into your times together. Help them understand that there will be some changes and some sleepless nights but you are going to do it together and as a family.
Explain to your child that a new baby is fragile and requires a lot of attention and that they can cry a lot when they're hungry or have a sore tummy. Reassuring your children that these are all small challenges that you can all handle is really important in giving them the confidence that it will be an exciting time for you all.
Involve them in the baby-waiting process
Another great way to prepare your child is to make them part of the preparation stages. As you wait for your newborn to arrive, you can ask your child for suggestions on important details such as what clothes to buy their little sister or brother, which baby toys to buy them, how to decorate the baby's room, what baby pictures to take or what colour of bedding will suit them.
If you decide to go shopping for these things, bring your child and let them pick some of the toys for the new baby brother or baby sister. By getting your little one involved, you’re showing them how important they are to the new baby and assuring them that they have an important contribution to make. This will help the child adjust and keep them from feeling out of place or forgotten when the baby finally arrives. Involving your older child to spend time in this process is vital.
Share the medical experiences
Children often associate going to the hospital with sickness and other negative things and they may worry when they find out that you are expecting. Your young one may get anxious when the trips to the doctor become more frequent so it’s crucial to let them know that going to the clinic is a good thing for the baby and that there is nothing to worry about.
It's a really good idea to bring them along to some of your appointments and any scans you have so they can see the baby and hear their heartbeat which often makes them feel involved and excited about meeting them. They will be fascinated by the ultrasound and how it's done and it will often provoke lots of questions and conversations which means they are getting used to the idea and any worries are coming out. It is an excellent way of answering all their questions.
Expect some regression
No matter how well you prepare your child for a new sibling, there is no guarantee they will always act as you would expect them to when you bring the baby home. Naturally, they will feel uneasy and sometimes left out as you aren't able to focus your sole attention on them anymore.
They may develop some moods to seek your attention and display anger at times. Alternatively, their behaviour often starts to regress, and they will start to act younger to get the attention their younger sibling is getting. There are many children who do it, and it's normal, and remember it doesn't last forever.
This may involve them forgetting their toilet training or asking to use the feeding bottle. These are all behaviours that are very much normal when a new baby arrives so don’t reprimand them or make them feel naughty as this could enhance these behaviours and make them do it more. Try to be understanding and reassuring as they learn to cope with their new sibling and the huge change in their life. Encourage them to sit with you when you are feeding them, and help you get them dressed and at bathtime, make it fun and make them feel involved and loved. Tell them their new brother or sister loves them and they are going to be best friends and always look out for each other. Take lots of photos of you as a family and them together and try making a memory book for them. Before the baby arrives it's good for the dad to take on more with them so it's not such a shock when the baby arrives.
Even if your child seems like they are fine with your new arrival there can sometimes be uncertainty going on in their minds. Make a real effort for you to have one on one time every day so they don’t feel left out or jealous. Making sure you have ‘special time’, reading, going to the park or visiting family and friends together is really important for your older child and for you as parents.
Ask your family and friends that when they visit that they make a fuss over the oldest child too to make sure they feel included and not left out. If it's all just about the baby it can make their jealousy and uncertainty worse. We have all felt a bit left out at some point in our lives and this is no different for children. Ask family members if they can also have a special day out or a couple of hours at the park with them without the baby being there. This means you get a bit more rest and they still feel special not only to you but to everyone who is important to them.
Transition your child into a bed
If your child is going to move into a bed any time soon then always do this a couple of months before the baby arrives. Make it really special for them and let them know how they are going into their own grown-up bed. Let them have an input into the decoration if you are redecorating and let them choose the bedding and new things they will have in their room. If you do it when or shortly after the baby arrives then this can often make them feel like they are being moved out of their cot and room to make way for the baby rather than feeling special about the exciting change in their life. Doing it a couple of months before the baby comes will give them time to adjust and get settled which can be really tricky when you are tired and doing night feeds.
It takes time
Remember this is a whole new world for them and you can understand how they now feel they are no longer the centre of all your attention, it takes time and can sometimes be challenging, however, they will adjust. For most first children, it's a huge change and it can take months for them to adjust because they have no concept of time and the future.
There will be some children who will be very sensitive to the arrival of their new sibling and no longer being the centre of attention, and there will be some children who will adapt well to the change and you will never know beforehand. If your child is stressed out by the new arrival in your family don’t worry that you are being a bad parent or you aren't handling it well as it is all completely normal and many families go through it and always get through it.
If your eldest is at nursery
If your eldest is due to go to nursery then always settle them in a few months before the baby arrives to ensure they don’t feel like they are going to be out of the way. Make it an exciting time for them and a new adventure. Take it in turns to drop off and pick up and ask the family to also get involved so that when the baby is born they are used to it not just being you taking them or picking them up. Tell them that they are going to make new friends and learn and do lots of different things and when the baby is the same age they will also go. Doing it a few months before ensure they are settled and in a routine and don’t feel like they are being bundled off because of their new sibling. Ask the nursery to talk to them about their new brother or sister being born and to keep an eye on them when it arrives so they can let you know if they have any concerns. A good nursery like The Flowers Day Nursery will have lots of experience with new siblings and will support the introduction of their new brother or sister into their lives. Read our helpful tips in our article How To Settle Your Child Into Nursery.
Bringing home a newborn can take a toll on an older sibling straight away or in the first few months after the novelty has worn off, especially when they realise they are no longer the centre of attention. With the right preparation and conversations before the baby arrives, your eldest will have time to get used to the idea and look forward to their new brother or sister. Be calm and offer lots of comfort and understanding throughout your pregnancy and in the following months.
Try using the tips above before and after the new baby arrives to ensure your eldest feels loved and involved along the way.