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The day we told H that she was going to be a big sister, I’m not sure she believed me. She was our only, at the time, and it was her fourth birthday. My husband set up the camera so we could catch it all on video. We sat her down on the couch and told her we had something very special to tell her. I looked my baby girl in the eye and told her that there was a baby in mommy’s tummy. She glanced at my belly and I asked if she understood what that meant. She grinned as I excitedly said she would be a big sister!
I’ve always wanted a big family and it was so exciting to be able to tell her that we were having another baby. We had talked about what if she was a big sister one day in the months leading up to our big announcement. That may have been risky for some people, and definitely not everyone’s way of going about it. But we would ask her if she wanted to be a big sister, if she wanted a baby brother or baby sister, and things like that.
The real work came, though, after the news was official.
1. Be open and honest
Looking back, this is probably the number 1 thing that helped my daughter prepare for becoming a big sister. We never hid from her that there would be challenges. If she asked questions, we answered them honestly and age-appropriately. There were plenty of moments when she felt sad or scared about having a sibling. So we would answer her questions honestly. If she asked about him taking her toys, we would explain that would be an opportunity to teach him sharing. You can read here for a specific instance in which my daughter voiced her fears and how we dealt with them.
On the other hand, my daughter was at that extremely curious, ask-all-the-questions age. There were several times that she asked exactly how the baby would get here. You know your child and you know what information they are able to handle and at what age. For us, we just explained that when Brother was ready to come out, mommy would go to the hospital and he would be born and she would come see us at the hospital. If she pressed for more details, I would tell her that I would push him out and she usually was satisfied with that answer. Again, you know what the best answer is for your individual child.
2. Talk through different scenarios
This helped tremendously whenever any fears or concerns would come up with our daughter. If she said she was worried we wouldn’t have time for her, we would say, “There will be times when have to take care of the baby. If we are busy, what is one way that you can help?” or “What is something you can do to stay busy until mommy or daddy is finished helping the baby?”. This way she was able to use critical thinking to come up with ways to deal with the changes. We would always follow up by explaining that maybe we wouldn’t be able to play her game right away, but once we were done helping the baby we would be able to. I think that method really helped her to understand that yes, we would have to spend time with baby too, but we wouldn’t be forgetting about her.
3. Tell them how they can be involved
Talk through ways they can be a big helper. Offer ideas that they might be comfortable with and take note of how they react. I would explain that mommy and daddy would have to change lots of diapers and I would ask her how she thought she could help with that if she wanted. She was super excited at the idea of getting diapers and wipes ready for us, and it has played out so well now that the baby is here. She is always eager to help with the baby, and as he gets older and his needs change, I’ve seen her adjust her ideas of how she can help as well.
4. Set boundaries
Make it clear to your child what they can and cannot help with, what they can and cannot do, etc. We made it clear to H in the beginning that she could sit and talk with the baby, but that she couldn’t move him. We were clear on the use of the word “move” because kids are creative. If we had said “pick up” instead, she would have found other ways to move him.
As E is growing and becoming more mobile, H is eager to help in other ways. She wants to hold him more and help him stand, so we are having to adjust expectations here, too. Just refer back to point number 1 and be clear and honest with your child.
5. Make finding out the sex fun
Making the gender reveal fun can help to remove anxiety if they were hoping for one over the other. Again, our daughter was four, and we did the cupcake thing. We told her she was getting a cupcake and that pink frosting meant girl and blue meant boy. Of course this can backfire, too, as it did with us. H still tells me that if I had just given her the pink cupcake she would have a sister. Just be prepared to deal with hurt feelings if it’s not what they expected, and be sure to come from a place of understanding.
Check out this post for more great ideas for sharing the reveal with your kids!
There were points during my pregnancy where I was so worried about how H would adjust. I was just intentional about always giving her room to talk about her feelings, ask questions, and let us know her thoughts, ideas, and expectations. We talked about the upcoming baby a lot and I think it really helped her come to terms with all the changes that were taking place.
The key is to talk things through with your kids at an age appropriate level and let them be involved. This way the reality comes as less of a shock when the new baby finally arrives.
What are some ways you helped your kids prepare for a new baby? Did you find one age to be an easier transition than another? Let me know in the comments below!