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It can be hard for children to adjust to new family life when three becomes four. Life the way they know it is changing and that can be scary.
Because a lot of changes happen when a new baby comes into a household. Especially when it’s not the first, and the family is going from three, to four (or even more). It can be hard for the older child/children to understand the family dynamic is changing and they will soon be dealing with a new sibling. It can be a confusing and worrying time for them.
When my husband and I decided to have a second child, I was worried about how our three year old son would react. Other family had expressed their concerns too. He hadn’t been around many kids and was used to being an only child, and set in his ways.
Stubborn and dramatic, I knew we would be in for a demanding and difficult time.
My son was the first person we told, and just like I thought he wasn’t thrilled about the idea.
He didn’t want to know anything about it.
I was worried. I dreaded what would happen when the baby was born if he still didn’t like it.
It can be hard to know how to prepare your child for a new baby. We tried several things, hoping he would come around. These are what we tried.
When Three Becomes Four -Tips for Dealing With a New Sibling
We kept letting him know he was going to be a big brother, and how it was such a huge and important job.
He could be Mummy’s great helper. Bringing nappies, keeping baby calm and playing with her.
We asked for his opinion on baby names and what he thought of the names we were considering.
We tried to show him that the baby wasn’t going to take over by making an extra effort to do fun things with him, even when I didn’t really have the energy or patience. He needed to know he was still very important and the baby wasn’t going to change that.
We bought him a baby doll of his own. I think it helped him to understand a lot of what was going on and helped him get used to the idea. My husband wasn’t too keen on the idea at first but soon realised how beneficial it would be. We never pushed it on him, but it was there. He would often undress it and give it a bath. He would lie it on the lounge and say, “shhh, baby sleeping.”
We read books about new siblings. My son’s favourite was ‘Spot’s Baby Sister.’ Spot books are great, especially for young ones who find it fun to lift the flaps and see what’s underneath.
We didn’t take our son to any of the ultrasound scans because we thought he would get bored and restless. We showed him the few pictures we had from the 19 week scan, but he wasn’t that interested in them. It was when we had a 4D scan done and came home with the ultrasound photos and DVD that I noticed the biggest improvement. I think seeing the pictures made it real and easier to comprehend. He could see there was a baby there. He loved seeing the baby move on the DVD. We finally found out we were having a little girl, and he couldn’t have been happier to find out he was having a little sister.
In my hospital bag I packed a present to him from the baby. I think it helped make him feel a bit more included and like the baby wasn’t the only one getting presents.
Not always smooth sailing
But even when he was happy to be a big brother, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. There were times when he regressed to trying to be baby-like. He still wanted to be carried a lot of the time. I was seven months pregnant and still carrying him around. I had to tell him I just couldn’t do it anymore, and we held hands instead. It took awhile, (and quite a few tantrums) but we got there.
He would wake up dry every morning, but he was not willing to give up his night nappies. When I said to him one day that he didn’t need them anymore, he purposely wet it in the morning. I didn’t see the harm in him still wearing them at night if it made him happy, and one night he just turned around and said he didn’t want them anymore.
I loved that he was coming around to having a sibling. But I wasn’t prepared for just how much. I loved watching our 4D DVD. I just didn’t want to watch it several times a day, every day for about three months. It went for almost half an hour. There’s a place in it that looks like she’s waving, and we always had to wave to her.
The first night (well, only a few hours that night) I was ever away from my son was the night I was in labour with my daughter. He stayed with my parents for a few nights which helped a lot. He got some extra attention I wasn’t able to give him when he needed it and I was able to concentrate on the baby and trying to get some sleep.
It isn’t the easiest helping older siblings cope with the new baby. But getting my son used to a new sibling was easier than I was expecting. Time, patience and making him see what he would be gaining were what helped me.
It’s not all roses, he does get jealous of her from time to time, but he loves her. And she loves him. They have a great bond. For now, they’re the best of friends – most of the time. They do have their sibling squabbles and screaming matches. But right now, it works well. Definitely better than I was expecting.
And I’m happy with that.
How did you prepare your child for a new sibling?