The birth of a second baby brings joy as well as challenges to the parents and the first child. As a parent, you might feel nervous and anxious as to how your older child would react. Moreover, there are a lot of questions that are going through your mind, including the following:
- How am I going to tell him?
- How would he react?
- How will I prepare him for this?
Take note that children of different ages will react differently to a new baby.
Toddlers - Ages 1 To 2 Years
At this age, a child will not understand much yet about what it means to have a new brother or sister. However, as a parent, let your child hear you talk about the "new baby" and feel your excitement.
- Show your child picture books about a new baby. As such, he will become familiar with words like a "new baby”, "sister”, and "brother".
- Once the new baby arrives, reassure him that he is still loved by doing something special for him.
- Examples are: giving him a gift, letting him spend some time alone with his grandparents, and taking him to his favorite place
Preschoolers - Ages 2 To 4 Years
At this age, a child still is very much attached to his parents and doesn’t seem to understand how to share them with others. Moreover, he may be very sensitive to change and may feel threatened by the idea of a new family member.
Here are some tips that may help ease a preschooler into being a big brother or a big sister.
Find time to tell your child about the baby.
You can explain to your child about the forthcoming baby when you start buying nursery furniture or baby clothes, or when your tummy is getting big. It’s better to tell your child about the new baby before he hears it from someone else.
Tell your child that the baby will be cute, adorable, and cuddly but will also cry and take a lot of your time and attention; also, that it may be a while before he can play with the new baby. Reassure your child that he is as much loved as the new baby.
Involve your child in planning for the baby.
Bring him along with you as you shop for the baby’s items, etc. clothes, blankets, pillows. This will make him less jealous. You can also buy a doll that he can take care of as “his” baby.
Schedule and/or time major changes in your child's routine.
If possible, finish toilet training or switching from a crib to a bed before the baby arrives. If not, try to postpone it until after the baby is settled in at home. It may cause anxiety to the child as he becomes overwhelmed by trying to learn new things on top of all the changes brought about by the new baby.
Be ready for possible regression.
For example, your toilet-trained child might suddenly start having "accidents," or he might want to drink milk from the bottle after he’s weaned off. This is normal and it is his way of making sure he still has your love and attention.
Prepare your child for when you are in the hospital.
He may be confused when you leave for the hospital. Explain that you will be back with the new baby in a few days.
Spend quality time and/or set aside special time for your older child.
Try to do things together e.g. reading, playing games, listening to music, or simply talking with each other
Advise family and friends to spend a little time with your older child when they come to visit the new baby.
This will help him feel special and not left out of all the excitement.
Have your older child spend time with his father.
A new baby presents a great opportunity for fathers to spend time alone with older children.
School-Aged Children - Ages 5 and above
Children older than 5 years are usually not as threatened by a new baby as younger children are. However, they may resent the attention the new baby gets.
To prepare your school-aged child for a new baby:
Communicate with your child about what’s happening in a language he can understand.
Explain what having a new baby means and what changes may affect him—both the good and the not so good.
Involve your older child in helping you get things ready for the new baby.
Example: fixing up the baby's room, picking out clothes, or buying diapers.
If possible, bring along your older child to the hospital soon after the baby is born so that he will feel that the baby is a part of the growing family.
When the baby is brought home, make the older child feel that he has a role to play in caring for the baby.
Examples: hold the baby, although he must ask you first. Praise your child when he is gentle and loving toward the baby.
Do not overlook your older child's needs and activities.
Despite being busy with both, make an effort to spend some time alone with the older child each day; use that as a chance to remind him how special he is; and tell him that you love and care for him as much as you love the new baby.
About The Expert
DR. JOSELYN EUSEBIO, Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician
Dr. Joselyn C. Alonzo-Eusebio is a graduate of Doctor of Medicine from the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center. She had her Pediatric Residency Training in the same institution, after which, she pursued a fellowship in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at UP-PGH. She had had further trainings in Developmental Pediatrics abroad (US and UK).
Dr. Eusebio is involved both in teaching and in clinical practice. For the academe, she’s currently an Associate Professor of the College of Medicine of UERMMMC, and Clinical Instructor at the New Era College of Medicine and St Luke’s College of Medicine. Dr. Eusebio holds various positions including the following: Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, UERMMMC; Head, Section of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at National Children’s Hospital; Vice-President, Philippine Pediatric Society and the Perinatal Association of the Philippines.
She’s a much sought-after speaker in conferences, scientific symposia, lay fora, here and abroad, both in platforms and in media, most especially on the topic of child development and behavior.
Adapted from Sibling Relationships (Copyright © 2007American Academy of Pediatrics,Updated3/2007) Last Updated 4/10/2019