How to prepare your child for a new addition
Preparing for a new baby can be a joyful time in a family’s life. When older siblings are involved, being prepared is the key. Children of different ages react differently to a new baby, according to the American College of Pediatrics. Knowing what to expect from each age group will make it easier to handle the changes in your family.
Ages 1 To 2 Years
Since children of this age will not understand much about what it means to have a new brother or sister, here are a few suggestions for helping prepare young kids:
- When the new baby arrives, try to do something special for your older child to reassure her she is still loved. Dr. John Beckerman, an Advocate Children’s Hospital pediatrician at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill, suggests presenting a special gift from the baby to the sibling.
- Look at picture books about a new baby. This will help your child become familiar with words like “sister,” “brother,” and “new baby.”
Ages 2 To 4 Years
To help your preschooler ease into being a big brother or big sister, some suggestions include:
- Be honest. Explain that the baby will be cute and cuddly but will also cry and take a lot of your time and attention. Also, make sure that your older child knows that it may be a while before he or she can play with the new baby. “While I encourage siblings to be involved with the baby,” he also warns, “I discourage leaving a child alone with a baby. Even a well-meaning sibling may try to pick up and drop the baby or share a blanket or food – causing choking or suffocation.”
- Reassure your child that you will love him just as much after the baby is born as you do now. Read, play games, listen to music or simply talk together.
- Time major changes in your child’s routine. If you can, finish toilet training or switching from a crib to a bed before the baby arrives. If that is not possible, put them off until after the baby is settled in at home.
To prepare your school-aged child for a new baby, some ideas include:
- Have your older child help get things ready for the new baby by fixing up the baby’s room or picking out clothes and diapers.
- If possible, have your older child come to the hospital soon after the baby is born so he or she feels part of the growing family.
- Do not overlook your older child’s needs and activities. Let your child know how much you love him or her. If possible, make an effort to spend some time alone with each child every day.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.