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New Beginnings: Preparing a Toddler for a Sibling

Laura Hahn

 D and his best bud, Daniel Tiger.

D and his best bud, Daniel Tiger.

When I found out I was pregnant with my second, I knew that one of the biggest things I’d need to prepare for before her arrival was getting my son acclimated to (and hopefully excited about) the idea of becoming a big brother. Each child reacts differently, but the age at which they become an older sibling seems to make a difference as well. Younger than 2 may be a bit young for them to get a full grasp beforehand of what’s about to happen, but since I knew my son would be 2.5 years old, we’ve been able to prepare him for months, and as of now (a couple weeks pre-baby), he seems to be getting it and has even expressed excitement! Here are a few things we’ve done to help prepare him for the big day:

  1. Give him books about becoming a big brother. He got three big brother books for Christmas, and we’ve been reading them to him consistently. We like the ones we’ve chosen for him since they are practical--they give a glimpse of what life will be like when the baby comes home, and we’ll be able to refer back to the book if/when a similar situation occurs.

  2. Show him the Daniel Tiger episodes when he becomes a big brother. I don’t know about your kid, but mine is obsessed with Daniel Tiger. He listens to his songs before bed (available on Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon), has a few of his books, and went to see Daniel Tiger Live a few weeks ago as a special treat for his last days as an only child. He loves relating to Daniel and talking about what he does in the episodes, and seeing him become a big brother has definitely helped him grasp the idea of what that means. Darian even exclaimed, “I’m going to be a big brother soon!” while watching an episode. We’ll most likely be singing Daniel’s jingles non-stop once his sister comes, including, “you can be a big helper in your family” and “there’s time for you and baby, too.”

  3. Talk to him about his sibling, being a brother, and being a big helper. Repetition is key in getting a child to understand something, so we’ve been talking for months about Darian becoming a brother and asking him where his baby sister is (“in mommy’s belly”). He has come to many of my OB appointments, where he helps out by putting the doppler on my belly and checking his sister's heartbeat. He also claims he’s a big boy rather than a baby when we ask him, so hopefully this distinction will keep his jealousy at bay since he’s a big helper and can do lots of things babies can’t do. Some friends have attested that stressing the “big kid” aspect has helped tremendously. 

  4. Test run his reaction by holding a friend’s baby. While at a play date, I held my friend’s baby in front of D to see how he would react. Surprisingly, he didn’t seem to mind at all! I talked to him about it and he knew that I was holding a baby, and that he had to be very gentle. However, on a different occasion when I was playing with another child around his age, he became very jealous and acted out. I’m hoping this is a sign that he sees a baby as non-threatening since she’s not his peer, and that he’ll view her from the older caretaker side. I’ve heard this to be the case for kids a bit older as well, especially since they’re into specific things and baby toys aren’t really appealing to them.

Of course, all of these things are abstract until the day he actually becomes a big brother, so we’ll see how much they helped when the day finally comes. When he visits us in the hospital, we'll be sure the baby will be in the bassinet instead of one of us holding her, so he doesn't get possessive. His sister will also “give” him a present so they start off on a generous foot. Thankfully, the first few weeks we’ll have grandparents in town, so he will have undivided attention from an adult through the transition.

For those with multiple children, how else have you prepared your children for their new siblings?