How do I help my child transition to having a new sibling?

What guidance does the Bible provide?

When the new baby arrives, the older sibling will be interested in learning more about their brother or sister. Let the older child help you in ways that they are able. 1 Peter 4:10 "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." This is a wonderful time to help your child learn about the special gifts that God has given them to help others. With the new addition to the family, mom and dad will need help around the house and even caring for the new baby. Allowing your child to help in the ways that they can is an excellent way to allow them to learn more about responsibility and using the gifts and talents they were given!

Often, the older child becomes jealous of the amount of time that mom and dad spend with the new baby; they have to share their parents now. Philippians 2:3-4 says; "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." Remind the child that because their sibling is so little, they need more help to do things unlike them. Suggest ways that they can have fun while helping their new sibling. Encourage bonding time with the entire family to create deeper relationships and new ways to work together.

Things to think about:

As a pregnant mom with children, the big question becomes how to talk to your child about the new baby. Children, depending on the age, can express a broad range of emotions from excitement to nervousness with the news of their new sibling on the way. Talking about changes that will occur within the home are important for the children to be aware and understand what different things will be happening around them. Much of their understanding of the new child is based upon their maturity; younger children will not understand as much of what a baby is and what is going on. Older children will have more questions about the topic of babies.

Including your child in various aspects of the pregnancy is important to think about during this time. Children, curious or not, should be involved in planning and preparation for the new baby. This helps solidify the concept that something new and exciting is about to come into their world. It is also good to explain the reality of the situation; prepare them for the time and commitment that their new sibling requires of you as the parent. Remind them of things that will not change and highlight time they will still get to spend with you. Consistency in their schedule is important while they adjust to their new brother or sister.

When you want to spend some alone time with your older child, remember to utilize your parents. Grandparents are always ready and willing to love on the new baby! Take this blessing and use this time to play or go on a big kid outing with your older children. Tag team parenting is also an excellent way to spend quality time with your older children. Have your spouse take the baby so that you can have uninterrupted time with the other child. This reminds the child that you value them when they are helping and when it's just the two of you! Remember, do not set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Set attainable goals and work with your spouse to get to a comfortable place for family time and alone time.

What do I do now?

Children need to have their questions answered. Have answers prepared that are appropriate for their level of understanding. Do not open up a conversation that you do not wish to handle.

When talking to your child about their new sibling, remember:

  • Answering the questions that they do ask is important; do not bring up topics they do not ask questions about (I still love you).
  • Talking to your child about their emotions is important; it's normal for them to experience both sadness and joy.
  • Each child is different; some children can not handle certain aspects of the pregnancy process as others can be fully involved. 
  • Show them pictures of them as a baby to help them understand how tiny they were and how much help they needed.
  • Read books to your child about the addition of a new sibling. This helps them see that others are feeling the same excitement or nervousness as they are.

This time of change can be stressful for your child. It might be helpful to hold off on attempting changing big things in their life such as potty training or sleeping in a big kid bed until they have adjusted to their new role as a big brother or sister. Encourage them to help you prepare for the new baby by picking out toys and setting up the crib. Make sure that they have time to learn about your expectations for them and how having a sibling can be fun!

Want to go deeper?

A few fun books for parents to read with their children:Mayer, Mercer. (2001). The New Baby. New York, NY: Orchard House Licensing Company. Fuller, Rachel. (2009). Waiting for Baby. Swindon, UK: Child's Play International.

‘Preparing Your Child to be a Sibling' is a helpful resource for parents to learn about ways to navigate the concepts of a new baby with their child. There are other sites that navigate from this website that link to resources and blogs for parents to try and acclimate their child to their new role.

This website provides 25 tips from moms and dads to help prepare your child for their new brother or sister. Activities range from topics to talk about to fun things to incorporate into your daily life. 

25 Tips to Prepare Children for a New Sibling

This link has information to help parents teach their children about what is to come with the arrival of the new baby. There is a significant amount on the emotions that children express in preparing and adjusting for their sibling. - Sibling Prep