Preparing Your Child to Become a Big Sister or Big Brother (ages 1-4)

May 2012
The arrival of a new baby and becoming a big sister or brother can be an exciting and traumatic time for a toddler, especially if he or she is the only child at the moment. My daughter was 16 months old when her brother was born and it took her a very long time to get used to having him around. She would run to him when he cried, show him toys, and sing to him, but she would also scratch him the minute I looked away. At the time, this worried me because my intention of having children close in age was so that my daughter could have someone to play and grow up with. I didn’t realize then, that my daughter just needed a bit more time. Now my children are inseparable. My son waits impatiently for his sister to return from school. Sometimes my daughter even brings him treats that she gets at school. They still fight over toys and things like all children, but the important thing is that they have so much fun together.
Aug. 2014
The following are some things that you can do to help your child adjust to becoming a big brother or big sister:
Prior to the arrival of the new baby,
          Tell your child about the baby. Five or four months before the baby is born, is a good time to tell your child because waiting the whole nine months can make your child impatient and anxious.
          Make your child a part of the excitement. Let him or her feel the baby’s movements. Take your child to your ultrasound appointment and let your child see the ultrasound pictures. Let your child pick out baby clothes, blankets, and toys for the baby. Refer to the baby as “our baby” or “your new baby sister/brother”
          Don’t use your child’s favourite blanket or anything that he or she is attached to such as his or her crib, for the new baby, unless your child offers.
          Don’t make major changes in your child’s routine right before the baby is born. Don’t start potty training, weaning from the breast, transitioning into a big bed, preschool, a month before the baby is due.
          Show your child pictures of him or her when he or she was a baby. Tell your child how happy you were he or she was born and how happy you are that he or she is growing up. Praise your child for all the things that he or she is able to do (talk, walk, use the potty, drink from a sippy cup, etc.).
          Tell your child often that he or she is going to be a great big sister/brother and that the baby is so lucky to have a big sister/brother.
          Make your child a part of the baby shower as well by giving him or her a couple small gifts. A toddler may feel left out if he or she sees all the presents for the new baby.
          Let your toddler help you pack your hospital bags. Let your child pack a photo of him or her or a drawing into the baby bag (so that you can show the baby).
          A week or two prior to your due date, tell your toddler who will be taking care of him or her when you are in the hospital.
After the birth of the baby,
          Let your child visit the new baby at the hospital, if possible.
          Let your toddler help you care for the baby by bringing you a diaper, a blanket, or bottle, after the baby comes home from the hospital.
          Let your toddler hold his or her new sibling, but only if your toddler wants to.  
          Don’t scold your child for expressing negative feelings towards their sibling, such as saying she or he doesn’t like the new baby. Know that most toddlers will shower their sibling with kisses in the first few weeks and as their attention gets shared with the baby, they will start to feel jealous.
          Spend as much time with your toddler as you can to avoid your toddler developing negative feelings towards his or her new sibling. Have a family member watch the baby so that you can spend one-on-one time with your toddler.
          If your child shows aggressive behaviour (pinching, biting, scratching, spitting) towards the baby don’t let it slide. Calmly talk to your child about why that behaviour is unacceptable.
Dec. 2012

Every child is different; some take longer to adjust and some adjust almost right away. Even if you follow all these tips, your toddler still may take time to grow accustomed to having a new baby in the house. The best thing you can do is show love, give attention, and praise your toddler often for all the good things he or she is doing. In time, your toddler will grow to love and accept his or her new sibling.

Oct. 2014

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