For some children hearing about the impending arrival of another child can be a confusing time. Preparing your child for the arrival of a new sibling can start when the new baby is little more than a twinkle in your eye. Here are 20 ways to help your child prepare for the new addition to your family.

Looking ahead

  1. Before you even fall pregnant, talk to your child about families that have more than one child and what that is like. Don't promise a baby sibling, just discuss the difference between a family with one child and two.
  2. Explain to him what's happening at the same time as you tell friends and family, to prevent him becoming unsettled if he hears conversations he doesn't really understand, or sees you rushing off to the bathroom to be sick.
  3. Explain to your child that babies take a long time to arrive, so that he doesn't spend days and weeks wondering when the baby will arrive and get really frustrated. Showing him a calendar and crossing off the days is a great idea and helps to build excitement.
  4. Let him feel your expanding bump and talk to the baby if he wants to, but don't force it. If he shows an interest, show him pictures in books of a baby in the uterus (womb) and any scan pictures you have.
  5. Show him the pictures of his own ultrasound and the photos of him when he was first born. Talk about the amazing feeling of love a new baby brings. Read books about new babies with your child. Keep up the positive message.
  6. Refer to the new baby as 'our baby', or 'your baby' so he feels that the new arrival belongs to him as well.
  7. Nearer the day, take your child to some of your antenatal appointments at the hospital and explain that this is where you will go when you have the baby (unless, of course, you're planning a home birth ).
  8. Well before the birth, get your child used to other adults who will be involved in his care after the birth of his sibling.
  9. If your child has friends who have a new baby in the family, take him to see them so that he doesn't feel different and becomes aware that new babies do little more than cry, feed and sleep at first.
  10. If you are planning on potty training your first child, moving him to a big bed or making any other major changes, do it at least two months before the baby is born so your child doesn't feel unsettled and as if the new baby's arrival is forcing him out.

The new arrival

Once your baby has arrived, your older child may be as thrilled as you are – but don't be surprised, or disappointed, if he isn't. Here's how to help him get used to the new arrival:

  1. Involving him in the homecoming by letting him come to the hospital, or helping to get things ready at home. Does he have any toys he would like to give to the new baby?
  2. Making a fuss of him and showing him you love him just as much as before.
  3. Having a special time with him every day.
  4. Not always attending to the baby first; as long as he isn't in pain or danger he can be left for a few minutes while you look after your older child.
  5. Letting him help with the care of the baby as much as possible – without over-burdening him.
  6. Asking visitors to greet him before your baby, and to bring a present for your older child as well.
  7. Letting him show visitors 'his' baby – it'll boost his pride.
  8. Praise him for being such a great older brother and talk about how important that role is.
  9. Telling your older child that your baby's first smiles are especially for him.
  10. Relationships can change. Given enough love, patience and understanding even children who seem to dislike their baby brothers or sisters do learn to love them.