04/04/2014 08:56 EDT | Updated 06/04/2014 05:59 EDT

Preparing Your Older Child for a New Sibling


Baby number two is on the way! You and your partner are probably excited, but your first child may be not quite so sure. How you help them get ready for the arrival of a sibling will depend on their age, of course, but here are some general "dos and don'ts" to ease them into the role of big brother or big sister.

The Don'ts:

1. Don't break the news too early. Nine months can be a very long time for a small child, and you are likely to get tired of answering "When is the baby coming?" by the end! When you are about six or seven months along is often a good time, as it's early enough to give them time to get used to the idea.

2. Don't make promises about how great it will be to have a new sibling or talk about the baby as a playmate. At first, the baby isn't going to be much fun and your older child may be quite disappointed. If possible, give them a chance to meet your friends' babies so they have some idea of what to expect.

3. Don't push your older child to give something up for the new baby. You may want to get her out of the crib so you can use it for your newborn, for example, but if they're attached to it that could cause a lot of resentment. It usually works better to either move them out of the crib early on in your pregnancy (so they don't connect it to the baby's arrival) or after the baby has been around for a few months.

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1. Do answer any questions (such as "how did the baby get in there?" and "how will the baby get out?") honestly but at the child's level of understanding. Younger children are not likely to ask, but older children can be quite curious and this is a great opportunity to teach them about reproduction in a matter-of-fact way.

2. Do involve them in planning for the baby as much as possible (which will depend, of course, on the child's age). Even a toddler can choose between the green and the yellow sleeper when you are shopping for a layette. Older children may enjoy sorting their old toys and putting some in a box for the baby or helping you decorate the nursery.

3. Do talk about the plans for the birth (unless your child is very young). If the birth will be at home and your older child will be present, ask your midwife about videos that can help prepare them for what they'll see and hear. If you will be going to the hospital, talk to your child about who will come to take care of them while you are there, and about plans to visit you once the baby is born.

4. Do consider having the baby "give a gift" to the older child. (One preschooler unwrapped his present from his newborn baby brother and asked his parents "But how did the baby know I liked dinosaurs?") This helps them feel appreciated when much of the attention is on the newborn.

No matter how much preparation you do, don't be surprised if your older child is sometimes unhappy and resentful about the new baby, or starts behaving like a baby herself. It's not always an easy adjustment. Be patient and reassure her that you love her even though right now the baby is taking up a lot of your time.

Written by Teresa Pitman for

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