Preparing 2-5 year olds for the new baby

Older children are able to understand more as the new baby is on the way.

Modeling with a doll can help train a child on how to really act once the new baby arrives. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Modeling with a doll can help train a child on how to really act once the new baby arrives. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Older siblings that have a new baby on the way are capable of understanding more which allows parents to communicate more clearly. Typically children ages 2-4 are still very attached to the parent and may have a difficult time sharing. Parents can start by letting them know that even though they will have a new baby sister or brother they will still love them as much after the baby is born.  Older children may have questions and parents can keep their answers brief but accurate and respond in a general manner. Michigan State University Extension suggests letting children know the baby will be cute, but will take a lot of your time and attention. Usually, children are just looking to understand and make sense of the new change coming about. According to healthy children, parents can read books on the family having a new baby. Parents can also have the child take sibling classes in the hospital if available.  They can also include the child in their preparation for the new baby. Start by showing children their own baby pictures when they were tiny.

This age group also likes to play pretend and parents can take this opportunity to guide the child in play with a doll or cuddly bear on being gentle and speaking softly. Refer to the doll or bear as being a “baby.” If the child is a bit rough, then parents can help guide the child on being gentle with the doll or bear. This kind of modeling will help parents train the child on how to really act once the new baby arrives.  If the child is at the age where parents are considering switching to a toddler bed or potty training, it would be best to do it before the baby arrives, if possible, or put it off until after the newborn is settled at home. As mom’s due date gets closer, parents can prepare the child for when mom goes to the hospital. Let them know mom will be back with the baby when she returns. Once the child arrives, it is not uncommon to see some regression; they may wet or want a bottle. Usually they are just seeking their parent’s attention and want reassurance that they are still loved. Ignore their behavior and give them the attention they seek. Praise them when they act their age. Children also do well when enlisted as helpers. It will make them feel important and not left out. Finally, have the child visit family members and do fun and special activities with the older child.

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