9 Tips to Prepare Your Child for Their New Sibling
My husband has been out of town for work for 3 weeks now and to say we are all out of sorts is an understatement. I am in complete survival mode at this point! We are very ready to reunite our pack. Whenever he is gone for long stretches like this, I realize just how much we all need him. We are in such a routine when he is around, and our daily life just doesn’t feel right when he is gone. I have so much respect for all the single parents out there. You are rock stars!
When he is away, there are times that I feel really guilty because I can not give the boys the undivided attention they so crave. There is only one me. On a typical work day, when my husband gets home we spend time as a family then give the boys each around 30 minutes of individual quality time with one of us before bed. They don’t get that special time when he is away, and it shows. But they have each other.
Lately, I appreciate the boys’ sibling bond more than ever. This past 3 weeks I have seen their relationship grow. It is truly amazing to watch. They have been asking for baths together, sharing like champs, and Brooks has become so protective of Brody. It is heartwarming to see how they have learned to stick together. Of course there are days when they fight the entire day. No one wants to share toys, there are tears over everything, and if I could separate them in two different houses I would! But most days they have a bond that is so strong, and for that I am so grateful, especially when it is just the three of us.
Having my husband away, and trying to get enough time in with both boys reminds me of those early days when we became a family of four. The last few months that I was pregnant with Brody, I was so nervous with how Brooks was going to adjust to a sibling. He was just one years old when I became pregnant with Brody. And now I can’t imagine them not having each other.
The day Brooks met Brody at the hospital, it was instant love and my husband and I will never forget how wonderful Brooks was with his sibling at just 19 months old. I remember giving out a sigh of relief when I saw how happy Brooks was to be a brother. Before I had Brody, we asked friends for tips, read books and blogs, and really concentrated on making the transition to a family of four as easy as possible for everyone. I want to share a few tips we found super helpful in preparing Brooks for his new baby brother! Some of these did not exactly apply to us because Brooks was so young, but I wanted to include them because I have heard they are great ways to help older siblings adjust as well.
- Introduce them to being a sibling in their terms
There is no one right way to tell your toddler/child that they are going to have a new sibling. Break the news to them in a way they can understand and comprehend. If they typically need some time to warm up to things, ease them into it. Ask them questions. What do you think if you had a baby of your own at home? Your friend, Wyatt, has siblings, I bet it is always fun at their house! If they seem excited by the idea, then you probably could break the news right away. If they seem a bit more wary about the idea of a sibling, or straight up against it, then you may want to gradually ease them into the idea…Show them siblings at the park getting along or invite a friend with a sibling over. Seeing others with siblings will show them that it is normal and even fun!
We waited to tell Brooks until I was showing, because he was so young. And we kept it really simple when we first told him. We showed him my belly and explained that his new brother was in mom’s belly! This way he could tangibly see what we were also saying. He was under 18 months at the time, but he would point to my belly and say baby and give it kisses.
- Answer questions and keep them informed
We talked about babies a lot, in general, and specifically about the baby in my tummy. Of course, Brooks wasn’t asking me questions. But I still talked him through my pregnancy. I would show him a pineapple and say brother is this size today. He thought that was so funny! For your older child, don’t shy away from encouraging questions. I have always felt it is better to answer a question then shy away from it. Be honest yet sensible in your answer. I read Betsy Braun Browns book “Just Tell Me What to Say” and she reinforced this feeling. It was such a great read because she explains how to be prepared for any question like “where do babies come from?”.
- Get suggestions on names
One of my girlfriends who has five kiddos said they always involved the other siblings when it’s time to talk names. Obviously, make it clear that Mom and Dad will make the ultimate decision. But it is such a great way to involve the other kids. Brooks was too young at the time, but I would have loved to hear his suggestions. We have a friend whose son wanted to name his sister “peek-a-boo”. I am sure he will hear about that for a very long time!
- Teach them about there new role through play and books
If you have a girl who already has a doll, get her a stroller, or grab a baby bottle and let her role play. I have seen little girls with babies wrapped on them imitating their moms. It is the cutest! Show your child how to change the baby’s diaper, or even give the baby a bath together. This allows your child to interact with a “baby” before the real thing comes home. I also love all the sibling books. Again, because of Brooks’ age we stuck to books. My favorite is “Brothers“, and of course there is a “Sisters” version too. It’s a really simple read, that shows brothers getting along, but not always, and how they work through it. Some other books we love:
Babies Don’t Eat Pizza // Little Rabbit’s New Baby // Waiting for Baby
- Lots of “Mommy & Me” time before and after the new baby
I think this one is the most important, and not just for them but also for you! Before Brody came, it was our priority to have special quality time with Brooks. Whether it’s going to the zoo or even a movie together, plan an activity that will be a special memory for both of you. Especially if you are breastfeeding in those first few months the newborn will be attached to you (literally). Because of this, my husband was spending a lot more time with Brooks than I was. I was so happy I had spent so much time with Brooks before the baby came, so my guilt wasn’t eating at me. I also made a point that after the newborn was fed, I would put him down and have special quality time with Brooks. Especially in the newborn days it was so easy to tote Brody in the carseat. Brooks and I would go to his gym class and story time while Brody slept in my Ergo or in his carseat. It was such a great way to transition Brooks to having a new sibling with us, but also seeing that he still was able to do all his normal activities.
- Go to a sibling class
We didn’t do this one because Brooks was under the age limit for the class offered in our hospital. But many hospitals offer classes for older siblings. Your kids may feel more comfortable asking questions to someone other than you! It is also a great way for them to interact with other kids making the same transition.
- Give them a special role and keep them involved
This is all about feeling included. Mom has a role, Dad has a different role, and each sibling has a special role too. Even at 19 months, Brooks had a special role. He was a big brother! I would tell him to make the baby laugh when Brody started to fuss. To this day, when Brody starts crying Brooks starts making funny faces or tickling him.
- Exchange sibling gifts
I heard the most about this tip when I was pregnant with Brody. Which of course, this is a fabulous idea and how fun! It was so cute watching Brooks pick out a present for “my baby”. He picked something that was not age appropriate (a dinosaur puzzle), but that was the fun of it. Whenever Brody plays with that puzzle today, Brook still says “I gave that to you when you were a baby”. We even did this with our dog!
- Pass the baby
Our nurse at the hospital told me about this when she heard big brother was coming to visit. She said how important it is for us to not be holding the baby when Brooks arrive. Rather, we put him in his bassinet, so when we saw Brooks for the first time, he could run into our arms. We needed that hug just as much as him. We embraced, talked, and then introduced the boys. It was the perfect introductory for all of us. And it was such a great first impression for him to see that our arms will always be open wide for both of our babies!
Any other tips I didn’t cover? And for the mammas of 2 plus, what can you add? I always love to hear others suggestions! As always, thanks for stopping by the blog today!