Congratulations! You and your family are expecting a new baby. Now, how best to break the news to the current king/queen of the roost – your existing child? Below are some tips for softening the blow, broken down by age and developmental ability.
Under 2-Year-Old Sibling
Generally speaking, children under the age of 2 do not have the developmental capacity to understand having a new brother or sister. They will likely have no adult memories without that person. Children this age are beginning to develop empathy and can pick up on your excitement though, so it is important to always be positive about the new baby. Other tips for success include:
- Focus on and celebrate being the OLDER sibling. A great way to do this is scheduling special big kid activities with dad, a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or family friend.
- Read simple books about babies.
- Look at pictures of new babies.
- Use words like “sister,” “brother,” and “new baby” often and in a positive way.
Preschool Age Sibling (2 to 4 years)
- Children this age can be very black and white. They often do not do well with change and can still be quite clingy with parents. The idea of a new baby can be scary for them. Here are some things you can try:
- Consider waiting until later in the pregnancy to tell them.
- Involve kids this age in preparing for baby – they love being helpers! Take them along when shopping for baby things.
- Read books about becoming a big brother or sister.
- Go through old toys with your child, allowing them to designate toys that can go to the new baby (and perhaps toys that are off limits).
- Show him or her baby pictures – celebrate when he or she was a baby.
- Consider buying them a doll so they can take care of their own baby.
- Spend special mommy time with your child before baby comes.
- Once baby arrives, plan special big kid time with dad, grandparents, or family friends.
- Be honest! Prepare your child for when you will be at the hospital and where they will stay. Explain that babies can be cute and fun but can also cry.
- Anticipate regression at this age. Older siblings may take an interest in bottles or blankies again. Toilet trained children can start having accidents. This is normal – stay patient!
- Come up with special jobs only the older sibling can do for baby
5 Years or Older Sibling
- While kids this age may resent all of the attention a new baby receives, they typically are less threatened than younger children. Remember to:
- Explain things on their level – the good, the bad and the ugly.
- Kids this age love to be helpers! Give them specific roles for preparing for baby (decorating nursery, picking out baby toys, etc).
- Give them a distinct role in caring for the new baby once they arrive.
- Reward and praise them for their involvement.
- Remind them how special they are and remember their age specific needs and activities.
- Since many visitors will bring gifts for the new baby, consider having small treats or rewards on hand for older sibling. This will help prevent resentment toward the new baby.