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Preparing Your Child for a New Sibling

A new baby is an exciting time, but if you have an older child, you may be concerned about how they’ll handle the change. The good news is that young children are very adaptable, and you have time to prepare your older child for the new arrival. Here are some tips for preparing your child for their new sibling.

Pick the right time to break the news

Some experts advise that parents avoid announcing a new pregnancy until the risks of the first trimester have passed. However, young children may have a difficult time conceptualizing a pregnancy that they can’t yet see evidence of. For this reason, you may want to wait until the pregnancy is beginning to show before telling your child.

If you do wait to tell your child about the pregnancy, you may also want to hold off on telling your friends and family as well. This can remove the risk of a well-meaning person accidentally mentioning the surprise in front of your child.

Understand the pregnancy from your child’s perspective

Expecting parents daydream about their children playing together and growing up to be best friends. However, your child may not understand it the same way. They may see it as a scary situation, and worry about the baby taking their place. If your child seems upset about having to share their toys or your attention when the baby comes, encourage them to talk about it. Listen to your child’s fears, and give them reassurance about how important they are to you.

You may also want to avoid giving long explanations or complicated details to a very young child, who may have difficulty understand them. For example, if your preschooler asks where babies come from, you can give a simple answer like, “Babies grow inside the mother’s belly.”

Involve your child in preparations for the new baby

Because children feel more confident when they have a measure of control over a situation, getting your child involved can go a long way. Some ways you can involve your child include:

  1. Encourage your child to feel the baby kick.

  2. Go through your child’s baby pictures together and talk about what it was like then.

  3. Bring your child to prenatal appointments with you, depending on their age.

  4. Ask your child to help you choose new baby clothes, toys, or books.

  5. Have your child create a drawing or a present from them for the baby.

Involving your child him in preparations can go a long way in creating a connection instead of resentment. However, it’s just as important to present a realistic view of how life will change. It can be tempting to ease your child’s anxiety by saying the baby will be a playmate, but it can also be disappointing when your child discovers the reality of a newborn’s life.

To help your child understand life with a new baby, you can visit friends who have infants of their own, or use a doll to show your child the right way to hold, touch, and behave near a newborn.

The Katy area has many resources for families expecting new babies, including sibling education classes at Memorial Hermann Katy and Houston Methodist Childbirth Centers.

The arrival of a new baby is an exciting time and a monumental event on its own, let alone when you need to to prepare your toddler or preschooler as well. However, these tips can help make the new sibling’s arrival that much easier.

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