How to Talk to your Older Children about a New Sibling

Reviewed by James Brann, MD
There is no perfect way to break the news to your toddler or young child about the news of a new pregnancy. Every child handles the news differently, just as the rest of your family will. Depending on the nature of your child, and your relationship with him or her, you may expect happiness, fear, anxiety, sadness or jealousy. Hoping for the first emotion is ideal, but over time, your child will adjust to the idea of having a new baby brother or sister. A lot depends on how you, as the parent, feel about your pregnancy.
In many cases, a mother is very close to her first child and may have many of these same emotions, especially if the pregnancy was unanticipated. However, if you and your spouse were planning on having more children, you can start to adjust to the thought of having a new baby even before you conceive. Asking the child how he or she feels about it is a great beginning. Subtle questions like, “How would you feel about having a brother or sister?” are a good way to break the ice.
As you already know from having your first child, it does require a lot of work and attention to handle a newborn’s fundamental needs. Including your older child in the participation can make them feel proud of being a big sister or brother, rather than jealous. Depending on the skill level of the child, you can ask your son or daughter to do small favors. “Honey, can you do mommy a big favor and go get a clean diaper for me?” is one example. This makes the child feel important and like they are needed, which can greatly help them to adjust.

10 Tips to Prepare Your Child for a New Baby during Pregnancy

The best time to prepare your child is during the pregnancy, rather than just showing up one day with a brand new baby in tow. Some children handle the issue with maturity, while others react as if it were the end of the world. It is important that you allow your child to ask as many questions as possible and to be honest. Here are some other ways you can include your child in the process and help them to transition to big brother or sister:
  • Read books about a mommy having a new baby. There are many different levels of books for children, from toddler to preschooler, or even school-aged children. Choose an age-appropriate book or two. It can be fiction or non-fiction as you see fit.
  • Include your child on shopping for the baby supplies, if they are able to help you choose the best things. For example you could say, “Which bassinet do you think your new baby brother or sister would like best, this one or that one?” This helps the child to be part of the process and shows them that their opinion matters to you.
  • Show the child pictures of themselves when they were a baby, in as much chronological order as you have available. This helps to show them that they were a baby once too, as well as improving their memories of the lives you have lived thus far.
  • Take them places where babies are present. If you have friends who have babies, make a play date. While introducing the baby to your child, mention that “soon you will have a new brother or sister who will be a baby just like this!”
  • Have your little one help to decorate the nursery. You can even let them draw special pictures or stick decals with you to welcome the new baby.
  • After you make a list of potential baby names, you can also run them by your child to see how he or she feels about any of these names. Ultimately, you will choose the name, but you can help the child bond with his or her new sibling by picking out a name to call the baby ahead of time. It makes it more real than just a “baby bump” inside of mommy’s belly.
  • If the child is able to and if it is okay with the doctor, you can bring him or her to an ultrasound appointment. You can show them on the monitor what the baby looks like that is growing in your belly. Be prepared to get hit with a slew of questions. The doctor may even allow your child to listen to the baby’s heartbeat.
  • Look into some birthing classes that you both can take, which will help your child learn how to hold and feed a baby with your assistance.
  • Most of all, don’t force your child to adapt too quickly. It does take time for the adjustment and your child will grow to love his or her brother or sister very much.
  • Always be sensitive to their feelings!


Doing these things might make your child more equipped to handle the new baby, rather than feeling spiteful or sad about not being the center of mommy and daddy’s universe. It can be tough for some children to have to “share the spotlight”, especially kids who are used to being constantly doted upon. No matter what, reassure your child how much you love them and how special they are. One day your little one will realize just how nice it is to be part of a family and to have someone else to love and play with, rather than feeling excluded or isolated.

 

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