Useful tools, Wellbeing
Introducing a new sibling to the family
07 July, 2023
A new baby is a wonderful joy – but there’s no denying newborns also demand a whole lot of time and energy. Before the baby’s arrival, take the time to prepare your children so they feel secure and loved in their new role as big brother or big sister.
Whether your family has one child or half a dozen, adding a new baby changes the family dynamics. The youngest child is no longer “the baby” and parents have a new demanding little person that needs their care. Experts agree it’s important to give children plenty of time to prepare for the change.
What age is a child ready for a sibling?
This is a question parents may ponder, but it’s only been since the 1960s that women had any choice in the matter! Children of any age will adjust best to the arrival of a new sibling when they are involved in preparing for a baby. Experts agree it is best to start talking to children early in the pregnancy, so they can get used to the idea of being a big brother or sister and be included in preparations.
How does a new sibling affect a child?
Babies are hard work. They demand loads of attention at the same time as they interrupt our sleep, making us tired and irritable. It’s a recipe for disaster! That’s why it’s important to give children an idea of what to expect when bub comes along and help make sure they feel secure in their parents’ love.
How to prepare your child for a baby sibling
Luckily, human pregnancies last nine months, so you’ve got plenty of time to prepare your child/ren to be a loving and helpful big brother or sister. Highlighting their new role can help show them how important they are within the family and provide them with guidance about how they may be expected to behave, for example, being gentle with the baby or planning special quiet activities to do while the baby is sleeping.
Tell your child in an age-appropriate way
Reading new sibling books together can be a great way to start conversations about babies and how great it is to have brothers and sisters. Any book with pictures of babies can be a prompt, or you may like to track down specific books for new siblings such as Hello in There! by Jo Witek that shows a big sister talking to the baby in her mum’s growing belly or Zeno Sworder’s This Small Blue Dot, where another big sister tells her baby brother about all the things she’s going to teach him. Awww.
Give your child opportunities to ask questions about the new baby and give honest, age-appropriate answers. Once the baby arrives, there will be no hiding that they cry often and loudly! Explain that’s how babies communicate and discuss how the family may respond, for example, by changing the baby’s nappy and how your child can help by passing you a fresh nappy or reading a book while they wait.
Involve your child in preparations
Still wondering “how do I help my child adjust to a new sibling”? Encourage your child to embrace their important role as big brother or sister. Having a sense of pride in their role can help them to embrace it – and their new sibling. Include your child in preparing the baby’s nursery and choosing clothes for them. Introduce the concept of sharing by suggesting they choose some of their babyish toys and books to share.
Foster excitement and bonding
A new baby is exciting! Help build your child’s excitement about preparing for a baby and becoming a big brother or sister so they are well on their way to developing a bond with the baby before it arrives. Let them see mum’s growing belly and encourage them to talk or sing to the baby so it can learn their voice. Some children also like to do drawings or paintings for their new baby sibling.
Introducing a baby to their sibling for the first time
Try to choose a time when both baby and child are ready – ie not tired and cranky! Introductions can run more smoothly when the baby is content after a feed. Young children may be encouraged to bring baby a gift (and open it for them!), sing them a nursery rhyme or gently tickle baby’s toes as a way of connecting while keeping the newborn safe from excited little hands!
Find support at Edge Early Learning
Consider letting your child’s educators at Edge Early Learning know that you’re preparing for a new baby so we can offer support and encouragement to your child as they prepare for their new role as a big sister or brother.