Deciding to expand your family is a significant step. Looking after one child is vastly different from looking after two. Likewise, two kids seem a breeze compared to three – and so on (apparently). There are loads of things to consider before rushing into a decision like this. It’s something you should think long and hard about, to be sure you’re making the best decision for your family. I remember being pregnant with Isla and carrying a toddler around, it was hard work. I still cannot believe there is only 18 months between them.

Let’s say you’ve made the decision to have another child – now what? Aside from all the ongoing preparations, there’s one other thing to consider; how will your existing child deal with a new baby? It will be brand new to them, so you have to prepare your child for what’s to come. Here are some suggestions to help you do just that:

Be honest with them

I think the worst thing you can do is lie to your child. It sounds rude, but it’s actually very easy to do this without thinking. You know your child might not understand what’s going on, so it’s easier to just keep them in the dark. Then, you surprise them with a new baby. It’s not a good way to go about things at all!

Instead, just be honest with them. Sit them down and explain that you’re going to have a baby. There’s someone growing inside of you that will soon be their brother or sister. You don’t have to get into all the technical aspects and the birds and the bees! Just let them know that they’ll have a playmate in the next nine months. This gives them time to come to terms with the change, and it can also make them very excited. Some kids respond well to this news and will eagerly await the latest addition to your family. 

Spend as much time with them as possible

Don’t let your pregnancy get in the way of your relationship with a child. Spend as much time with them as you possibly can. This will show them that you still love them and want to play with them or spend time with them. If you’re too busy or tired to play, it makes them blame the baby. Before their brother/sister is even born, they already have a grudge. The most common problem when expanding a family is that your existing child doesn’t like the new baby as they think it’s stealing all the attention. They feel left out and unloved, which affects the way they act. 

So, you can put any negative feelings to bed by putting all of your attention on your child while you’re pregnant. It makes them feel as though things won’t be bad with another baby. They know you still love them, so everyone is happy!

Explain that you will undergo physical changes

While you don’t want to explain every aspect of the pregnancy to your child, it helps to talk about a few things. Mainly, you should explain that you will change over the next few months. It can be quite strange for a young child to see their mother get bigger and rounder. They might be confused, and it will probably lead to a few awkward questions or comments from them. 

Instead, explain the basics of what will happen. Let them know your belly will get bigger and you might look a bit different. Think about a few common visual changes that might be a concern for your child – like the linea nigra. Is your child likely to turn around and say: what is linea nigra? Unless they’re highly intelligent and study Latin, the answer is no! But, they might point at your stomach and cry because you have a dark line there. This is why you should tell them about certain things, to calm any fears and ensure they know it’s normal. 

Involve your child in the planning process

Another good thing to do is including your child when planning for the new baby. Let’s say you go out shopping for cribs, bring them along, and let them help you choose. Look at baby books together and pick out clothes – or, get them to pick out some of their old clothes to give to the baby! All of this is great as it’s: a) bonding time with your child, and b) makes them feel part of the process. 

In essence, they form more of an emotional attachment to the baby. So, they become more excited for its arrival, which is what every parent wants! You could even let them have a say in what the baby’s called. This will really make your child feel special, and it will be something they think about forever. Even when both kids are grown up, the older one will reminisce about how they chose their sibling’s name!

Buy your child a present for the birth date

When you give birth, it will be the hardest day for your existing child. This is where they will feel most neglected. It’s not your fault – how can you give them attention while literally giving birth?! Your partner needs to help out, but you also might want them in the birthing room with you. It falls on the grandparents to step in and keep them occupied, but this doesn’t really help. 

Instead, you have to make this day feel special for them. Let them know that you’re still thinking of them by giving them a special present. You can frame it as a thank you for helping you out while you were pregnant. It doesn’t really matter how you reason with them – kids see a present and forget everything else. It gives them something to be happy about while also providing a toy to keep them distracted.

Teach them how to look after the new baby

This goes back to the idea of getting them involved with the pregnancy. While you’re pregnant, spend time teaching your child how to look after the new baby. If they have any dolls or fake baby toys, you can turn it into a game. Get them used to the idea of holding a baby and taking care of it. This makes them feel like they have a role to play when the new child is brought home. Right away, they get into big brother/sister mode!

Obviously, you’re not training your child to be a nanny! Still, you want them to understand how to treat a baby and how to safely interact with it. Again, make sure you always talk about how they will be the big sibling. Really push the point home that it’s their job to take care of the baby and look out for them. Once more, it starts to solidify the bond between the children before one is even born. When the baby arrives, your older child will feel a sense of responsibility that stays with them throughout their life. It’s a beautiful bond to create!

Overall, these are the best things you can do to prepare a child for a new baby. If all goes according to plan, your family expansion should be straightforward. Your older child will love the new baby and spend as much time with it as possible. They won’t feel neglected, and your whole family is full of love. It’s worth noting that this is the perfect scenario – it doesn’t always turn out like this. There can be a bit of a painful phase where everyone adjusts, but that’s life! If you follow the advice in this post, you should make it easier for an older child to adapt.

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Last Update: Tuesday, 1st December 2020