Getting that positive pregnancy test is like no other feeling in the world. But sharing the news with your other child(ren) can be tricky to navigate. Mainly depending on the age of your other kids. Older siblings, whether toddlers, preschool, or big kid aged, will have many feelings (whether they express them at first or not). Helping your child adjust to a new sibling in your family may feel overwhelming. But YOU and your family will navigate this change and see the joy of bringing home a new baby. Settle in and snuggle up. Here is how to help your child adjust to a new sibling.
WHEN & HOW to share the baby news
After having three kids of my own, I’ve learned what has and (and what has not) worked. Spoiler, stressing about how much screen time my other children get falls in the NOT worked category.
Choosing when and how to deliver the big news to your kids that they will soon be taking on the new role of becoming a big brother or big sister is a huge deal! Deciding what time feels right is really up to you and your partner. As excited as you are to tell them as soon as you get that positive test, nine months can seem like an eternity to young children.
I remember telling my two older boys when we got the news of our third child using the ultrasound photo. Did I take a picture? You bet. Did they have ANY idea what I was sharing with them? Not really. They are half smiled for the camera and then bopped away to magnetic tiles.
And it makes sense that they didn’t comprehend a nine-week-old baby in my body. According to the AAP, a toddler’s major limitation with cognitive development around age two is that they feel responsible for big life changes. They see the world revolving around them. Understanding their development stage helps you navigate how to have conversations that they can relate to.
Here are some additional ways to help your toddler prepare for a new sibling:
- Share pictures and videos with your child if you have a close family friend or cousin with a new baby.
- Did you decide on a name for the new baby? Use it! Talk about the baby by their name rather than the baby.
- Don’t take things personally if your child shows resistance. Change is hard for everyone! (us grown-ups too) Know that your day’s new routine and rhythm with kids will adjust to what works for your family over time.
There is no right or perfect time to share the news about welcoming a new sibling. But, clueing your other children into the family addition is essential to giving them the time to prepare everyone for the big arrival.
11 essential tips for welcoming a new sibling
Implement and practice these essential tips to help prepare your kids as you navigate those early days and months and juggle life with multiples!
- Read books
- Role-play with your child
- Allow your child to touch baby supplies
- Share a gift with and from the new baby
- Invite your child to help prepare the nursery
- If your child is moving rooms, do it with plenty of time
- Reverse the role of waiting until the baby’s needs are met
- Be patient with yourself (and your child)
- Expect push-back
- Stick to a normal(ish) routine
- There will be more screen time, and that is okay
Books, books, books
Reading books is one of the most valuable activities you can do with your child. Countless books are available to help prepare and explain what bringing a new baby home means. Snuggle up on the couch and spend some special one-on-one time reading and looking at pictures of how big siblings can help with their new baby.
If you have a toddler at home, we love this book: I Am A Big Brother by Caroline Jayne Church. This book also comes in I Am a Big Sister!
Five stars! If you have a preschooler or big kid at home, we love this book: The New Small Person by Lauren Child.
Role-play with your child
I know most of us don’t love to pretend to play. (myself included) But these imaginative play ideas don’t require a superhero cape and pretend crown. Instead, practice role-playing with your child using their favorite stuffies or dolls to feed them, change their diapers and put them down for naps.
Props like action figures, dolls, or puppets help children open up and share thoughts more comfortably. The purpose is to create a fun dialogue. Props are a TOOL your child can later use in their play when wanting to work out a thought or problem.
- Find a comfy spot in your home that you know your child enjoys.
- Begin to narrate YOUR day using the puppet or action figure.
- Using the puppet, ask your child a question about their day or a question related to the new sibling.
- Share a story about when your child was a newborn using the puppet as the narrator.
You can learn much about your child’s feelings through play and conversation. Sometimes it takes a little prop to get the conversation started!
Basket of Babies
I wish we had this basket of babies around when my boys welcomed their new siblings. A sweet way to encourage role-playing and independent play at home with toddlers.
Allow your child to explore the baby supplies
I like to keep a few newborn diapers out for my child to explore before the baby arrives. This creates a welcoming environment rather than a hands-off approach.
When young children can touch and explore new objects in their surroundings, they are more likely to feel at ease with big changes. Keep the supplies out without directing your child to inquire about them. Use this simple learning activity for toddlers using baby bottles and tops before the baby arrives.
Provide time for your child to:
- Explore diapers
- Open baby bottles
- Wrap stuffed animals using the swaddle blankets
- Zip and unzip baby onesies
A simple gift to/from the baby
If your child draws a picture for the new baby, frame it! Hang it in the new baby’s room to help your child feel proud that they have helped decorate. Here is how we display my kid’s artwork at home.
You can also take your child shopping before the baby arrives to let them pick out something special to gift to their new baby sibling. Giving is such an important quality to teach, and your child will feel so good choosing, wrapping, and giving a hand-picked gift to their new baby.
Make sure to pick out a little something special from the baby to your big kid too! This does not have to be anything big, but just a little thought to show that the baby loves their big sibling. Some great gift options from baby to big kid might be an open-ended toy that will offer many hours of play (which is actually a gift to the parents too)!
RELATED: Need more ideas to help keep your child busy in those early days? Check out our best quiet-time toys for kids!
Help prepare the nursery
Get your big kids involved in preparing your home for the baby. Setting up the crib, painting the nursery, and picking out new sheets for the baby are all fun ways to let your older kids help get ready, prepared, and excited for the new family member.
PRO TIP: If your child is not interested in setting up the nursery, no problem. Grab a sensory bin or favorite toy to play with in the room as you organize and get it ready. Keeping a sensory bin where you need to get something done has been key to my parenting to-do list. Here is why I keep a sensory bin in my workroom at home.
If moving rooms around, do it in plenty of time
Depending on the logistics of setting up the new nursery, if you need to move your toddler out of a nursery and into a big kid room, make sure to do this in plenty of time. This will allow them to adjust to their new environment.
And if this means your toddler will need to transition from crib to bed, allow ample time. Do not dare to make all of these bedroom and sleeping transitions simultaneously; trust me! One thing at a time. If you have an older child looking for a better sleep routine, try this bedtime tuck-in ticket months before the baby arrives. It works because it puts the ownership back in your child’s hands.
Reverse the role of waiting until the baby’s needs are met
This is one of my favorite tips of all time. Big kids can have big feelings. We know this. Especially when their world is turned on its head, and it seems like everything revolves around the baby suddenly.
So change the narrative. It’s easier than you may think.
Just like your older child hears you say (on repeat) that they need to wait and be patient while you finish nursing, change the next diaper, prepare a bottle, put the baby down for a nap, etc.
Instead, tell the baby that they need to wait while you help their older sibling get a snack, help go potty, or set up a playful activity for kids.
This reversal of conversation is MAGIC!
Be patient (with yourself and your child)
Having a new baby is hard. Especially when you also have older siblings with their own set of needs. But what about your needs? Check-in with you. Be patient with yourself. Be patient with your kids. Show yourself some love and grace.
This is NOT the time to overthink too much screen time. In my own experience, when you are ready to hit restart, your children will too.
RELATED: Here are 9 tips when I feel overwhelmed as a parent.
Expect pushback (this is always temporary)
When the baby finally arrives, this is something your toddler or preschooler has never experienced. (or maybe doesn’t remember experiencing)
I remember bringing home my second and having a friend over to welcome the new baby. Both boys started crying at the same time! Whoa. This was unlike anything I had experienced before. How was I supposed to know who to tend to first without feeling extremely overwhelmed myself?
Not going to sugarcoat this.
Your big kids are going to act out in some way, somehow, and often. These are messages that they, too, are confused about the new change. Power struggles with kids can be difficult and tricky to work through, especially among your own feelings, hormones, and sense of being overwhelmed.
Know that this is temporary, and there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, you understand the different cues, and it is less likely to have both children crying for help simultaneously.
PRO TIP: I have learned to attend to what needs my help the most. This may even mean that I need to help myself before anything else. Eat, use the bathroom, and remember that your met needs help you function.
Stick to normal routine (as best as possible)
The routine is dependable. Routine is predictable. Routine is essential. And your routine will save you.
One of the best things you can do for your older kids as you welcome a new baby is to stick to your regular routine and daily schedule (as much as possible).
- If your kids are used to being at daycare, continue to send them.
- Do your kids spend Thursdays with their grandparents, stick to it and use the help.
- If your family always orders pizza on Friday nights, keep your local pizza spot on Friday night’s speed dial.
Things will be different, and knowing what to expect helps!
There will be more screen time, and that’s okay
I remember having my third baby and feeling utterly defeated as I sat on the couch with all three of my kids and watched (what felt like) endless hours of television. I felt so guilty. But in hindsight, I see now that those early days of snuggling on the couch are what we needed. Bonding time to unwind, cuddle up and just relax as we adjusted to our new, busier, and louder home required those moments (or hours) of stillness.
Once you are ready to press restart, know that there are plenty of ideas and activities for you to re-engage with your kids. Our Parent’s Guide to Busy Bags is a great way to start creating ready-to-go activities for your kids to stay busy while you prepare the next bottle.
Welcoming a new baby is a huge transition, be gentle with yourself.
Just when you thought a long, uncomfortable pregnancy and delivery was a doozy, so was the transition to home life with multiple kids. Feeling parent burnout is no joke as you adjust to balancing and navigating a new baby at home with siblings.
Remember to stay present, and know that this season is tough but that it is also fleeting.
Snuggle up with your babies (big and little), and be gentle with yourself. When the clouds begin to part, know that things will get easier, your morning routines will become smoother, and you won’t ever be able to imagine life before your newest little one arrives.
Craving a calmer morning?
Breakfast Invitations are simple learning games to begin the day with play.
There is no right time to tell your kids that your family will grow. However, giving your kids plenty of time to ask questions, adjust to any changes in the house and feel prepared is so important to be ready.
The way in which you tell your kids that they will soon be taking on the new role of being a big brother or sister is at your discretion. But sharing their family news in a way that allows them to feel included and involved in the process of preparing for the baby is an excellent way to create a family bond.
There are so many ways to prepare your child for the new baby. Reading books, playing pretend, preparing the nursery and giving everyone some grace during the adjustment period is so important in making the transition smooth.