How to Prepare Older Child to Become a Sibling | Dr. Amna Husain

Are you unsure of how to prepare your older child to become a sibling? If you're looking to expand your family and want help preparing your toddler or older child, this video is for you! In this video, board certified pediatrician and lactation consultant Dr. Amna Husain discusses how ot prepare your older child to become a sibling. Video Chapters: 0:00- Intro 0:55- What to expect with siblings that are age 1-2 years of age 1:49- Specific items that can help with toddlers age 1-2 years of age 2:25- How special attention can help 4:12- What to expect with siblings that are age 2-4 years of age 5:30- Why you may consider waiting to tell your preschooler 8:15- How I feel about sibling classes 10:22- One of my favorite tools for getting this age ready for becoming a sibling 15:00- Anticipating new changes and why it’s important to space them out 16:34- The role of regressions 18:10- Importance of individualized attention 19:02- Preparing your child for when you’ll potentially be away in hospital/birth center for delivery 21:08- What to expect with siblings that are age 5 years or older 24:30- Importance of “waiting” For further reading and resources: https://us.mind-matter.com/#all_books To see my other content, follow me- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dr.amnahusain/ Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@dr.amnahusain... ***The information in this video is intended to serve as educational information and can not be construed as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of you or your child. Content within this video is for information purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor or your child's doctor.

Transcription

Dr. Amna Husain:
Hi everyone. My name is Dr. Amna Husain, board certified pediatrician, board certified lactation consultant and mom, currently expecting baby number two. I'm filming a very special episode today, highly requested, on how to prepare your child to become a sibling.

Dr. Amna Husain:
One thing I want to emphasize is this isn't just to prepare your first born child to become a sibling. This is really tips that you can use for any child who's going to become a sibling. One really important thing to understand first off is that children of different ages are going to react differently to becoming a sibling. A child that's maybe one or two years old, isn't going to have the same understanding as a child who is six or seven years old. The emotional components of it, jealousy, understanding, all of those things play in differently, depending on the child's age.

Dr. Amna Husain:
First off, let's talk about the younger child. Typically we refer to children as toddlers after the age of one, so let's say toddlers age one to two years of age. What can you expect at this time? Well, children at this age won't really understand much about becoming a new brother or a new sister to another baby, but it is really important for you to let them hear about you talking about the new baby and what that means. I mean, they may not understand exactly what it is, but they should at least hear the term and understand at least the excitement. That makes a big difference because your attitude will rub off on him or her and they'll start to feel excited about it as well. Again, they may not completely understand the concept. Let's move on to tip number two, because that will help.

Dr. Amna Husain:
What are ways you can explain the concept of a new baby to a toddler who's one or two years of age? Well, typically I start off with picture books. Start with picture books of a new baby, and there are definitely items out there. I know I've seen them in Barnes & Noble, I've seen them in other bookstores, even on Amazon. You can even start off by looking through your one or two year old's baby albums and showing them pictures of when they were younger, trying to solidify, hey, remember this? It was your baby blanket. Remember that? It was your baby hat, and we're going to have a new baby. Continue to reinforce that idea, but in a positive, exciting way.

Dr. Amna Husain:
Going on that note, when the new baby arrives, make sure that your child gets a good amount of attention. Again, there's different ways to do this. One thing could be when you guys first come home from the hospital, let's say that you actually bring home a toy for your one to two year old child. Another way could be anytime there are visitors, and again, it's COVID right now, so maybe we don't have too many visitors coming in and that's totally fine. But if you do have vaccinated family members coming by to see your newborn, make sure that you tell them, "Please pay attention to the older child first. Then we can talk about the baby," because then they don't feel like they're losing their importance and love as well.

Dr. Amna Husain:
A few other things that can help at this age is actually beginning to use the baby's name. If you feel comfortable doing that, once you have a name for the baby, try to use that name around your one to two year old child. Start to help them visualize what baby's going to look like, the clothes that baby's going to wear. Again, remember, it's not easy. There's a reason why we always talk about the 2 Under 2 and how there's such a flurry around it. Meaning if you have two children under two, it's going to be very stressful. It's very difficult because the emotional needs of a child under two years of age are very different. I'm not saying that at two, there's a huge milestone where they're completely independent of you. No, we're just trying to say that usually the children under two are still highly dependent on you for meals, for diaper changes, they may not be potty trained at this point. It's still having emotional regulations, behavioral regulations that still require you to be very hands-on as the parent. Remember, you may not be able to satisfy the needs of both children or maybe more than one child if this is baby number three, or baby number four for you at the same time, especially not by yourself. If you feel overwhelmed, make sure you rely on others. Create a support network beforehand.

Dr. Amna Husain:
All right, moving on. What about the preschooler? The children age two to four years of age. Now, this age is really special and near and dear to my heart for a few reasons. One, my daughter is three years old, so she falls pretty much smack dab in the middle of this. Two, these children are awesome. I mean, they are talking, they're laughing, they're developing a personality of their own and they have emotions and sometimes they have big emotions and they don't know how to deal with them. It's really nice to help as a parent to be able to sort through those emotions. The third reason, well, usually children of this age, they're going to be the ones who in particular might struggle the most with becoming a sibling. That's why we have probably the most tips, insights, and helpful ideas to help you get your child used to becoming a sibling.

Dr. Amna Husain:
At two to four years of age, whereas they might be dipping their toes in independence, they're still very much attached to you. As the parent, you are still pretty much the center of their universe and that's a really awesome feeling. I mean, your number one fan is your toddler. That means they'll also be very sensitive to change and to any new family members, anybody coming into the house, especially somebody who may be taking mom or dad away from them. Again, we're going to try to meet them at their level and show them this is exactly what is not being done. There's different ways of doing that.

Dr. Amna Husain:
Some people say that you should wait awhile before telling your preschooler about the baby. I think this is totally your preference. For example, maybe you've miscarried before and it's important for you to wait a little bit longer to not tell your child. I think that's totally a personal decision. For me, we had miscarried and we still chose to tell our daughter early on in this pregnancy that there was a baby. The reason was because we wanted to tell her that, she's an active two-year-old old at the time, to be careful, why mommy can't potentially do certain things that she used to be able to do before with her, or maybe why I was feeling tired, and also just palpably my husband and I were excited and we couldn't really keep it in. I think this really depends on you and what you and your partner are comfortable doing. If you want to share with your toddler early, then you can go ahead and tell your toddler.

Dr. Amna Husain:
Some people say to wait until you really begin showing, and I don't know about you, but I don't think it became really obvious to my toddler until I had a big pregnancy bump that I was actually growing a belly. I'm glad we told her a little bit early, but certainly if mom's not feeling well, she's having a lot of morning sickness or very tired, then probably worth telling your child early because children at this age can be very intuitive as well and they may start to get some worrisome symptoms, even some anxiety, if they feel like, why is mommy always tired, for example. Again, totally your call, but I think it really depends on where you and your partner stand.

Dr. Amna Husain:
Another great way, similar to when your child's one to two years of age, is showing your two to four year old pictures and videos of when they were a baby. First of all, which toddler doesn't love seeing pictures and videos of themselves? Secondly, this is a great way to solidify again, remembering that baby phase, remembering that this is the way we used to hold you, this is the way we used to burp you when you were a baby, this is the way you used to cry when you were a baby. It'll help them feel like they're not only a bigger child, but that they also were in this role once, too, where they really depended on mom and dad, just like the baby will be at first. This might help potentially your toddler, depending on what their maturity level is. Usually for toddlers that are closer to four years of age, they might begin to understand then that infancy really isn't forever and that eventually this younger brother or sister is going to grow up and be a toddler just like them. That's a really hard concept for children to grasp. It's difficult and it's abstract. It does help to start trying to set the foundation and the framework, if you can.

Dr. Amna Husain:
One tip you'll often see is to look for sibling classes, sometimes offered at the hospital. I'll be really honest, I've worked in a few hospitals, I've never really seen these offered and I worked as a pediatrician. We were around a lot, labor and delivery, mother/baby wards, the pediatric inpatient units, the NICU, and never really saw these advertised. Maybe your hospital does offer them. Probably right now with COVID, they'll be in a virtual setting, but if your hospital offers them, you could consider it.

Dr. Amna Husain:
In general, I don't think these are really so helpful because when you're trying to explain this concept to your child, it should be you telling your child not necessarily an instructor or a teacher. I think it makes a big difference if you, the parent, are the one to break it to your child that they're going to becoming a big brother or sister, or that there's going to be a new baby in the house. Sometimes going into a new setting, like a sibling class or something like that could actually put your child a little bit on edge. Think about it. When they went to school for the first time, their first day of school, they probably weren't very relaxed. They were probably a little scared, a little uptight and constantly glancing around or focused on you. They're probably not going to be focusing on what the instructor is saying. Maybe your child isn't like that at all. Maybe your child is super active and can never sit still. Then in that case, they're definitely probably not going to be focusing on what the instructor is saying in a class. Again, I think if sibling class has helped you, that's wonderful. I don't know if they're really that much help to everybody though.

Dr. Amna Husain:
Now, when we talk about breaking the news to your toddler, it's really important to be honest. Children at this age really do fixate on our words and they remember what we say. Of course you should put your child in a positive way. Baby's going to be so cute. The baby is going to be so cuddly. Make sure that you also tell them the baby's going to cry. The baby's going to take some of your attention away. Make sure to let them know that sometimes, maybe you won't be around for every single part of their day to day routine, and that's okay. Reassure them and let them know that you will love them just as much then as you do now.

Dr. Amna Husain:
One thing that's really helped us is a book by a company called Mind and Matter. I'll actually put the book up here, but this is the one that we actually ordered for Asiya. It's a company that's ordered in the UK. I have heard of them. I've written for them actually in the past on preparing your child for getting a checkup. This book really grabbed my attention. I made sure to take a look at it and order it for Asiya. The great thing about these books is they're personalized. You can actually add in your pictures, your spouse's pictures, your child's pictures in, and it talks them through becoming a big sibling, either a sister or a brother. In this case, we customized it to be sister and it's been so helpful.

Dr. Amna Husain:
We've actually taken concepts from the book and continued to reinforce them. It really helps that Asiya loves to read, so we were able to connect with her on a way that is one of her hobbies, and still explain to her very thoughtfully and consistently and repetitively that she was going to become a big sister, and that love is made not taken away, and that when the baby comes, there's going to be some times that I might not be there for her each time, or dad may not be there for her each time, or we might not be there together, but that's okay. She's starting to repeat these statements over and over again, so we do see that it's providing some reinforcement and an understanding of the concept.

Dr. Amna Husain:
When it comes to involving your toddler in picking out things for the new baby, when your child's one to two years of age, this doesn't really help that much. They don't really understand. But the two to four year old child can get really excited about this. If you're picking out new bedsheets or taking out old baby clothes or buying new baby clothes, get your child involved. Get your toddler involved in doing all of these items. Maybe you're picking out new furniture, decorating the new baby's room. Get them involved and get them interested and always consistently reinforce, this is going to be our baby. This is our baby. You're going to help me with the diaper changes. You're going to help me feed the baby. This is going to be where the baby sits to eat. You can really consistently reinforce that this is not just your baby or this is going to be your responsibility, but this is also a shared responsibility between you and your toddler. Of course, we know that maybe your toddler's not going to be helping you do a ton of things, but if you start saying things like, "You're going to help me do the diaper change," they actually might rise to the occasion. You'd be surprised. They may actually bring you a diaper. They might actually get you the wipes. They may actually be really helpful.

Dr. Amna Husain:
Actually, even if you feel comfortable, maybe let them pick the name. I know. Maybe don't let them have complete free rein, otherwise you'll end up with a child named Buzz Light Year. If you want that, that's totally up to you, but that may not be the name that you wanted. Instead, maybe you and your partner are down to one or two names, maybe even three names and you guys like all three of the names, maybe let your toddler pick. That gives them a really great sense of feeling close to the baby, like they play a big role in this baby's life and that they're very important, too.

Dr. Amna Husain:
One of the things that I think has helped us out a lot is that we are expecting our little one in July, but in February, my sister delivered a baby and then close to March, April, my sister-in-law had a baby as well. We've been able to see a baby for about four or five months before we actually had our own little one in the house. That's been really great for Asiya, I feel like. She's had a chance to really meet a newborn baby, see what the newborn baby does, see the size of the baby, and a chance to really get close to them and understand so that it's not a completely foreign concept when we bring baby into the home.

Dr. Amna Husain:
I think if you can, and again, I understand that with COVID there's a huge caveat there, but if you can connect with a friend who's recently had a baby, and they feel comfortable because maybe you're fully vaccinated and they're vaccinated, then absolutely try to bring your toddler along. Just let them see who the baby is, see how the baby looks, see what a baby wears, what the baby's needs are. I think it can make a huge difference. Again, I understand this is difficult with COVID. Luckily this fell within my family and we were all close, we were vaccinated, we were within each other's social bubbles, so it wasn't a big deal to bring my toddler to meet a newborn cousin. This can make a huge difference. Get the wheels turning in your child's head so they can start to imagine a baby in their home.

Dr. Amna Husain:
I started off talking about how these children, age two to four years, have such strong personalities and are trying to become independent and they have some strong emotional behaviors. Well, you can expect there are going to be some regressions. On that note, there are ways to set yourself up for success.

Dr. Amna Husain:
Make sure to time your child's major changes appropriately. Give yourself enough time and space. I'm talking about the two to four years of age. Usually you're thinking of a child who is potty training, not just daytime potty training, but nap time and nighttime potty training. You're also thinking about maybe switching them from the crib to a big kid bed, especially if the crib is going to be used for your new baby. You might also be putting them into daycare or school, something like that. There's a lot of new changes that are going to be going on. To prevent overwhelming yourself and your child, really try to think ahead as much as possible and space out these changes.

Dr. Amna Husain:
A lot of people say you shouldn't really start trying to incorporate a new change especially close to your third trimester, and I really say that it depends on you and your comfort level. For example, in our house, we have been potty training basically since the start of the pandemic. We're looking at March, April, 2020 was when we started potty training and we're actually pretty successful now with day time potty training, have no accidents. But for me personally, I just couldn't take on nighttime potty training. I decided that early on in my first and second trimester that I wasn't really going to broach the topic of nighttime potty training because not only did I feel like my daughter wasn't ready, I wasn't ready. If I were to try to force a change, just because it would be convenient to get a child out of diapers, I felt like it would be the first thing that would regress.

Dr. Amna Husain:
Speaking of, do you understand that regressions can happen? For example, your toilet trained child might begin to start having accidents. This is normal, and this might be your older child's way of getting attention, more important than necessarily the accidents themselves or how you react to them. I know that you're going to be stressed. I know that you're going to be really overwhelmed with the new baby, but try not to scold your child when these things happen. Again, your child's already in a vulnerable place. They're feeling like the attention and love is not really on them. Then when they get their parents' attention, let's say mom's attention, it's in a negative manner because they're being scolded for wetting the bed, let's say. Really try hard not to let that happen. Instead, bring your attention to when they're doing something positive.

Dr. Amna Husain:
Going back to incorporating big changes, we did do a big girl bed pretty early on about six months before the baby's due date. She's been staying in her big girl bed and we have been congratulating her, we've been hyping it up. Do I imagine that when she sees baby in a crib that she's going to want her crib back? Of course, but at least we've been setting the foundation with creating good positive tones and feedback for when she stays in bed, and we're going to continue to do so. That way your child's not feeling like when they get their parents' attention, it's scolding. It's more instead you're giving positive feedback, and that's really important and a big cornerstone of positive parenting, which I love.

Dr. Amna Husain:
Another good way to really incorporate positive parenting is to set aside some time for you and your child. This is a tip that helps out really any age, but for the one to two year old child, again, it might not be a very easy concept for them to understand, but for the two to four year old child, this can be super helpful. For example, if they always do swimming on Sundays, make sure you keep up with that routine and make sure that if you're the one who always takes them swimming, that when you feel up to it, you're going to be the one who starts taking them swimming again, so that they still feel like that's that special time with either mom or dad to really get to bond and that their activities are still important. Maybe you always go for ice cream runs on Saturday evenings together. Well, try to keep up that tradition, make sure that you guys are still doing that together and have some special one-on-one time, even if it's just you and your toddler.

Dr. Amna Husain:
I think something else that's really important that we should emphasize is how to prepare your child for when you go to the hospital to have your baby. This is really important to me now, especially because with COVID I can't see my little girl in the hospital and that's kind of hard. As a pediatrician, one of my favorite things was when I walked into the room to examine a newborn and the toddler was there with balloons, also hovering around their baby, getting to cuddle their mom in bed. I think it was always something really wholesome, exciting, and fun for me to look forward to. There's a lot of other really crappy components to this pandemic. This might seem minor to some people, but I think it's important to really lament and feel bad about it if you do. So yes, I do, I feel kind of crummy that I can't have my toddler in the hospital. Completely understand 100% and it's just something that we have to roll with and that's okay. It's all right to also lament that moment.

Dr. Amna Husain:
What we're doing is really explaining ahead of time what the game plan for the hospital is going to look like. Literally in our words, we're saying, "There might be a few days where mommy and daddy won't be here with you because we have to go to the hospital and pick up baby sister or have baby sister. That's okay because," and then we go over who's going to be in the house with her or what our game plan is for who's going to take care of her. It took a few times and we're still actually continuing to work on it. I've only recently started introducing it and I'm about one to two months out from my due date. It's something that we're starting to introduce, starting to get her comfortable with. I think that's really important as well, because you want your child's life to remain as normal as possible around the time of delivery. You want them to keep up with their normal routine and structure. I've said this before, and I'll continue to say it, children thrive on routine and structure. Again, trying to emphasize who's going to be staying with her, familiar faces in a familiar place make a huge difference.

Dr. Amna Husain:
All right, moving on. What about the child older than four? The school-aged child is what we typically call them, so the child five, six, seven or older. Usually children five and older aren't as threatened by younger babies, but they may begin to resent the attention later, after baby comes into the home, after we settle into a routine. That really resentment might not be immediate, but it might come one, two months down the line where they realize, wow, this baby is a permanent fixture in my life.

Dr. Amna Husain:
A couple of my tips for this age is to try to explain to your child in language and words that they can really understand. That goes back to explaining the good and the not so good. For example, you might have to tell them that there's going to be times where maybe you can't pick them up from school because you'll have to feed the baby, and going ahead and letting them know those things early on so they can prepare for it. Again, reinforce with concepts of who instead will be picking them up, and try to look for familiar faces and familiar people in their life so that they don't feel like this is an incredibly new routine or a huge change to get adjusted to.

Dr. Amna Husain:
Depending on the age of your child, this child may even be mature enough to begin to hold the baby with you close by, but still actually even be able to have a more active role in holding the baby and letting them have that responsibility, but of course asking you first, can make them feel really big and important. Letting them know that you might be even able to hold the baby. I'm going to need your help with the baby. You'll always need to ask me if you can do this first, but you might even be able to help me feed the baby. Those kinds of things help them feel important and give them a role and a task in taking care of baby.

Dr. Amna Husain:
Lastly, going back to how they can really resent the new baby. Play up those emotions and instead turn to the advantages of being the older child. You get to stay up later, you get to eat this versus baby doesn't really get to eat that food. Or maybe the fact that they get to watch a movie and baby isn't watching a movie. Really try to play up their advantages of being the older child. You might even want to display your older child's artwork in the baby's room, or maybe your older child, if they're into crafting, can create a toy for the younger baby. There's so many ways to do this, but you can actually make them seem more important and seem like they play a huge role in the baby's life, which can make a big difference for your child, especially if they are your firstborn child and they've been used to being the only child for a good number of years.

Dr. Amna Husain:
On that note, one really important concept that I want to hit home is that you should get your child used to waiting on you before the baby comes. Otherwise we all know that when baby's in the picture, let's say your toddler needs their shoes on, or your school-aged child wants help tying their laces, typically we're usually able to do that right away, especially if they're our only child. When the baby comes and you're not able to do that right away, your child might start to resent that. It might start to feel like they're being put on hold or having to wait because of the new baby.

Dr. Amna Husain:
It might not be a bad idea to get your child used to waiting just a little bit, or maybe you don't respond to their every question. If they're talking, you let them know that right now mommy and daddy are talking and I will listen to you in just a minute. Then make sure you do listen to them in that minute, don't let them stay hanging, but get them used to that concept of waiting before the baby comes. It's a really important concept, and maybe even one that your child has grown to become accustomed to, especially if they're in preschool. This is things that preschool and first grade teachers do pretty often, but I really recommend you do that before baby comes. That way, they're not always thinking that, only after the baby came, did I have to start waiting for mom or dad to do these things for me.

Dr. Amna Husain:
On that note, it's okay to make baby wait sometimes, too. That way it doesn't make your older child always feel like they're coming in second place. Yes, of course, this only works when your baby is quiet and not when they're screaming at the top of their lungs, because you make a screaming maybe wait, they're just going to scream louder and maybe even upset your toddler. For your toddler's sake, you might want to explain to the baby that you can't pick them up right now because you're busy taking care of, I'll use my own daughter, Asiya. I might say to my new baby that, "I can't pick you up right now because I'm taking care of Asiya. I'm putting on Asiya's shoes," so that they start to feel like they're not always the one who has to wait and that opportunities are equal. That way, your toddler will begin to see that things work both ways and that will start to foster a sense of fairness for them.

Dr. Amna Husain:
My last tip for any child of any age that's about to become a sibling is to allow them to be as interested and as involved as they'd like. Some children get really excited and some children might just be a little disinterested. Whatever emotional response your child has is fine. Don't push your child to be excited or to show interest if they don't want to. That can actually be counterproductive and instead, again, foster feelings of resentment and might even cause behavioral regressions. It might cause the regressions before baby is even born. Really try to be patient with your child, read their cues.

Dr. Amna Husain:
I hope this was able to be helpful for you. I do think that your child's age and emotional maturity do play a huge role in this. If you have any questions below, make sure you ask them, give this video a thumbs up, share this video with anybody who might be expecting a baby and is unsure how to prepare their child or older children for becoming a sibling. Make sure you tune in next Monday for a new video.