Do you have a young child that struggles with change? As someone who is raising a sensitive boy, I get you. My only child, Fitzgerald, is definitely one of those kids who likes a routine, and he likes things to stay the S A M E. Right now, the question at the top of my mind is: How to prepare an only child for a baby?! Since he will be 4 years and 4 months by the time his baby sister comes along, he has had plenty of time to be used to being an only child. He’s had all of Mama and Dada’s attention and I’m pretty sure he thinks our entire life revolves around him. Well, all of that is about to change and this will be the biggest change yet in his little life!
Why It Is Important to Prepare an Only Child for a Baby?
Adults may not understand why our firstborn doesn’t receive their new sibling as well as we’d like! But because I’ve seen other friends and family members go through this, I know better than to expect Fitz to be as thrilled as we are with the new baby. These are the top three emotional challenges an only child faces when a new baby comes along:
1. Jealousy Over Baby’s Attention
They’ve been number one for their whole little life-it’s all they know! So when mommy and daddy can’t give them attention right away, they see the feeding, changing, and taking care of the baby as an infringement on their rights to getting their attention.
2. Change in Routine
Your daily routine, however flexible it may be, is what your firstborn knows and can expect. Just like you have to adjust your routine as a new mother of two when a new baby comes along, the older sibling has a new routine also.
3. Change in Family Relationships
So far the structure has been simple, and for our family, it looks like this: Dad, Mom, and Fitz. With another member of the family, the daily interactions will change. I believe it is for the better (one reason why we are having a second child!) but that doesn’t mean it will be easy.
This article addresses some of these changes and there are things you can do after the baby comes to help with this huge family transition. I know after we adjust, that Fitz will be a great big brother. But I also know there will be a transition time, so I have collected 7 ways to prepare an only child for a baby!
7 Ways to Prepare an Only Child for a Baby
1. Read books about a New Baby
Since most kids love reading, a good place to start is with books! This helps your child see his new life mirrored in someone else, and it opens up a conversation. While reading I ask questions like: What is the big brother (or sister) doing with their new baby? What will you do with our new baby? Fitz already knows he wants to help with bath time and he is excited to read books with the baby! Check out this list of books about preparing an only child for a baby that you can find at your local library.
2. Watch Shows About Preparing for a New Baby
A quick search on YouTube will bring up some options that can show your older kid how life may look like when they are a big brother or sister. And of course, talking about what you are watching really helps your child internalize the information. The one below is a great place to start!
3. Talk About Other Families
Who do you know in real life that recently had a baby? Your child probably knows at least a few other families who have more than one kid, so use those real live examples to talk about their family, and how your family is growing soon, too.
4. Check Baby Apps Together
I’m the type that has multiple baby apps on my phone and I check them on the regular. They really help me with the countdown! Fitz has started checking them with me and he loves seeing the baby’s new size and watching the weekly videos of the baby growing. This has gone a long way in helping him understand what is happening and that there is actually a little baby in my tummy that we will get to hold someday!
5. Include your First Child in the Baby Preparation
When I was going through Fitz’s old baby boy clothes (yes, many tears were shed), I would occasionally run across some gender-neutral items to hang on to for baby girl. How he loved taking them into the baby’s room for me! Now I am sure to involve him in any little thing I do for the baby like picking out things to buy for the nursery and organizing baby items.
6. Work on the New Baby Book Together
When I realized how much Fitz loves looking through his own baby book, I thought what better way to get him excited for the baby than help me with his sister’s? He enjoys helping me select photos and put stickers in her baby book and it’s another strategy that involves him and gets him excited for this new addition. I had to let go of some of the control and let him go a little loose with the stickers and such, but seeing how proud he is of his work is more than worth it!
7. Exchange Gifts!
This one will come later but I can’t wait. 🙂 Closer to baby’s due date, I’ll take Fitz out shopping to pick out a special gift for his baby sister. I can’t wait to see what he picks out. I know this will give him something to look forward to – he just loves picking out presents for people. And I will be sure that baby sister has a special item picked out just for her big brother too! We plan on exchanging these gifts when they meet for the first time.
Because Fitz tends to be one of those kids who needs to know what’s coming up ahead in his life, I have learned to never underestimate how beneficial it is to talk about upcoming changes A LOT before they happen. All of these activities provide us with plenty of opportunities to prepare him for a baby in our family. I am so excited to see him and his little sister interact together!
If you’re expecting baby number 2, or have been there already, I’d love to know your thoughts on how to prepare an only child for a baby!