Whether you’re starting a family, having a second baby, or adding more children to the mix, a new arrival is a big change for small siblings. Their responses can vary widely, whether you have a happy-go-lucky child, a clingy toddler, or a bossy older sibling who’s feeling a bit territorial.
It’s normal for siblings to feel left out when a new baby is on the way. With a little preparation and patience, you can ease their concerns as they begin to form a healthy, lifelong family bond.
Helping toddlers and newborns to get along
“And He took the children in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them.”
[Mark 10:16, / NIV]
Your children are blessings and blessed to be part of a faithful and loving family. God recognizes their innocence, as well as their need for older and wiser parents to guide them in the way that they should go [Proverbs 22:6].
Preparing toddlers for a new baby takes time, but it’s worth the effort. Soon, they’ll adjust to having a little less attention from mommy and daddy and learn – faster than you can say, “First steps!” – they’ll have a new friend to play with.
You can expect some sibling rivalry – it’s part of family life. There’ll be days when children with even the rosiest of dispositions turn green with envy when one sibling seems to have more. As they learn to get along, it’s a good time to teach them how to share everything, from their time and their toys to their love.
“And He took the children in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them.”– Mark 10:16, NIV
Preparing for baby two, three, or more
By the time you’re having a second baby, you’re probably a parenting pro. You’ve mastered the basics, from late-night feedings to daytime naps, diaper duty, bassinets, and baths. Whether you’re having a second child or your family has grown bigger, kids of all ages benefit from knowing what to expect. Remind them they’re still unique, special, and loved.
The following steps can help make new-baby transitions easier:
- Pray together for the new baby. Innocent children pray from the heart. Their presence is precious in the eyes of the Lord [Matthew 19:14]. Short but heartfelt daily prayers can help teach children how to pray as they get to know Jesus. Praying for their new brother or sister before and after birth can also strengthen faith and family bonds.
- Plan ahead for delivery day. Make advance arrangements for child care with trusted family or friends. Let your children know what to expect and do. If it’s a birthing center or hospital, take pictures in advance so they can see where you’ll be when the baby’s on the way.
- Talk to your children. Share age-appropriate explanations about everything from pregnancy to expected arrival dates and lifestyle changes. Invite questions and ask them to share how they’re feeling.
- Keep them in the loop. Children like to be part of the plan. Do they have thoughts on baby names? Can an older child help watch toddlers, paint “Welcome Baby” banners or choose nursery-room colors? Does a younger child need time to adjust to sharing a bedroom? Feeling like they’ve graduated to the role of responsible big sister or brother can keep siblings from feeling left out.
- Plan a baby-photo party. Select baby photos of your toddler and other siblings. Explain how you cared for them as a baby and will care for the new baby in the same way. Kids can help create a bulletin-board family baby tree and attach baby photos with names, leaving a blank space in anticipation of the new arrival.
- Educate toddlers about newborns. Remind them they’ll need to be very gentle with the baby. Let them practice a gentle touch with a doll or teddy bear. Explain to toddlers that the newborn will spend a lot of time sleeping, eating, and crying, or expressing bright-eyed fascination with new faces and places.
- Make introductions special. After your baby is born, keep the toddler’s first visit short and sweet as they adjust. While everyone’s oohing and ahhing over the newborn, give siblings a little extra TLC. You can prepare surprise gift bags in advance with Big Brother or Big Sister T-shirts, baby-themed cookies, or a toy. Or have someone take the little ones out for ice cream to celebrate.
Preparing for a new baby is just the beginning
Having a second baby with a toddler in tow is a challenging but exciting time for everyone. Keep lines of communication open as the baby grows and your family bonds.
Last but not least, don’t forget about Fido, Fluffy, or other furry friends. Getting siblings ready and preparing pets for a new baby helps everyone adjust to a delightfully unpredictable new normal.