Dear Dr. Michelle:
I am pregnant, and the baby is due in June. We have a 3-year-old that is the center of our family’s universe and gets lots of attention. To put it frankly, she is quite spoiled with love and devotion by all, including her grandparents, aunts and uncles. I am worried the arrival of a new baby will affect her and wondering what I should do to prepare? We have not told her yet that the baby is coming. We are not trying to hide it from her, we just don’t think she will understand what it means.
Congratulations on your pregnancy! What a wonderful time for you and your family. I understand why you may be concerned about the potential effects on your 3-year-old; having a second child will require some transition for everybody and it is smart for you to prepare.
Your daughter will most likely not understand how the new baby will affect her, but she does have the capacity to understand what a baby is and that one will be part of the family.
How To Start Preparing Your Daughter
To start preparing, I recommend talking about your pregnancy and teaching your daughter about babies. Create an ongoing conversation about the baby so the information has time to integrate into your daughter’s awareness.
There are many different ways to create ongoing conversations about babies that accommodate different learning styles and techniques. The following ideas are meant to get your daughter excited about the baby coming and to help her associate positive thoughts and feelings about babies.
- A great way to teach children about babies is by showing them their own baby pictures. While showing her pictures, talk about the needs she had when she was a baby and explain the amount of time you devoted to keeping her safe and meeting her needs. Explain that the new baby will need the same time and commitment.
- Expose your daughter to stories and videos of baby animals and their mothers. Talk to her about the time and attention babies require of their parents. Here is a link to an animal mother/baby video as a good place to start.
- There are many great children’s books about bringing a new baby home. Pick a book with characters that you think she will connect to and try to read the book frequently. The books can teach your daughter about being a big sister and the important role she will play in helping with the baby:
- If you have pets in the home, use them as an example of how important they are to family and talk to her about when the pets require your attention. Explain that a new baby will take your time and attention just like your pets.
- Get your daughter involved in preparing for the baby. Have her help select items such as clothing or diapers or have her assist in creating the sleeping space. Let her make some independent choices about items picked.
After the baby arrives, be sensitive about your daughter’s needs. Assign her special tasks to help with the baby, but don’t expect too much of her. Give her the space she needs to choose to be a big sister. If you see your daughter struggling or having strong emotions, understand this is a normal part of the transition. Help your daughter express herself and encourage her to talk about what she is feeling.
Create Special One-on-One Time
To address your concern that your daughter might struggle with not being the center of adult attention, try to find a way to set aside special one-on-one time with your daughter every day, even if it is only for a short amount of time. Seek the help of her grandparents, aunts and uncles in giving your daughter special time that doesn’t involve the baby. If your family wants to know how they can help with the transition, suggest they bring your daughter a small gift if they are bringing a gift for the baby so that your daughter does not feel left out; this is also another way for your daughter to associate positive feelings with the baby.
Even if you do nothing, know that young children can adapt quite well and quickly to the addition of a new sibling. While it will bring up new emotions, having a sibling can assist children in learning important skills like how to help, or how to be patient or independent. It can also provide an opportunity for children to develop their teaching and caregiving skills.
Dear Dr. Michelle blog posts are informational in nature. The posts are not meant to take the place of consulting your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health providers regarding your well-being or the well-being of others. Submitting a question does not establish a client/therapist relationship.
Submit Your Question on mental health and/or family relations to Dr. Michelle K. Murray.