How to talk to your child about: new siblings
As children grow up, they will inevitably come across adult situations which they don’t understand and which need to be explained sensitively and in terms that they understand. This series of articles looks at some of the key life events which parents are likely to find themselves needing to explain and give you some tips on how to help your little ones to understand.
Here at Fundamentally HQ, we’ve been thinking about how to prepare toddlers and children for a new baby brother or sister.
Siblings-to-be can feel confused, jealous or concerned when they learn that a new sibling is on the way. Preparing them for the new baby’s arrival is important to make sure your family growing is the happy event it should be.
Breaking the news
When, and how, you tell your child that you are expecting their brother or sister is a personal choice but there are a few things to consider before you do:
- Plan extra time for your child to digest the news and ask any questions they may have such as “Where do babies come from?” Keep your answers honest but appropriate to their level of understanding.
- Consider delaying sharing your news with very young children as may not understand the long wait before you are due.
- Explain babies take a while to grow and that the new baby is coming in timescales that they will understand, for example “after daddy’s birthday” or “before winter”.
Preparing for the New Baby
Making changes at home are best done well in advance of your new arrival so take some time to sit down and make a list of what changes are going to happen and start ticking them off. If you have a toddler in a cot that you want to move into a bed, do it sooner rather than later to avoid resentment at being pushed out. Other things to consider include:
- Toilet training – tackle this well before your due date or leave it until after the baby is born to avoid your toddler regressing to nappies when they see the baby in them.
- Routines – will your routines change on maternity leave? Will your child spend longer or shorter periods at a nursery or childminder, or even start or leave that setting completely? Prepare them for the changes in advance.
- Time with others – make sure your child is familiar with the person who will mind them when you are in labour and have a few practice runs so you won’t worry about them and can focus on the birth.
- Visit a Newborn – if any friends have recently had a baby, visit and let your child learn a bit about babies. Show how they sleep, feed and are generally not a new playmate until they have grown a little. Manage your child’s expectations so they aren’t disappointed.
Getting Siblings Involved
Sharing the joy of preparing with your child can be a great bonding experience and helps to create a positive emotional attachment while their sibling is still in your womb. Let them feel the baby kicking, choose some clothes for the hospital bag or pick out a new blanket. Can they suggest any names? Can you take them along to a 3D scan? Spend time together looking at their scan and baby pictures and let them help wash their baby clothes ready for the new baby.
Remember any acting out or behaviour issues could be a sign your child is struggling with the news and could be hiding worries. It’s a normal part of accepting the changes ahead so be gentle but firm. Schedule in lots of cuddles, kisses and opportunities to talk. With lots of reassurance from you they will soon be glowing with pride at becoming a big brother or sister.
Categorised in: parenting advice
This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer