Preparing Your Toddler for a New Baby

How can we prepare our child for the arrival of a new baby? I've heard some horror stories about this type of situation, and I'd like to avoid trouble if possible. What can my spouse and I do to ease the transition for him?

You’re smart to be thinking about this before you bring your new baby home. We’ve heard some horror stories ourselves – like the one about the kid who took one look at his new baby brother and bit his mom on the knee out of resentment. That kind of behavior can be a huge trial for parents, but from a certain perspective it’s not hard to understand. Many children feel threatened when a new sibling arrives on the scene and suddenly becomes the center of attention. It’s a normal reaction, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to tolerate. Here are some things you can do to help minimize bites and bitterness:

    • Start preparing your child during the pregnancy.
      Teach your toddler how to hold a baby doll with care. As you go through this exercise, use phrases like “be gentle with the baby.” That way, when the real baby arrives, your child will understand how to behave. If your child wants to know when the baby is coming, keep in mind that three- and four-year-olds have difficulty understanding time. It’s better to associate the baby’s arrival with a season rather than a month – for example, “By the time summer comes around you’ll have a new brother.”


    • Make the baby’s arrival a positive memory.
      When the baby is born, allow your child to visit the hospital. When he comes into your room, greet him without the baby in your arms. This way you can give him a hug and let him know how much you’ve missed him. After this time together, let him see the new baby. A special gift from the new baby (provided by mom and dad, of course) may help an older child appreciate the new addition.


    • Understand that your child will have mixed emotions.
      Some toddlers regress when a new baby enters the home. Bedwetting, whining and begging for a bottle are a common plea for parental attention. Remind your child of all the things he can do that the baby cannot and all that he can teach the new baby.


    • Emphasize the importance of the older child’s role.
      Let your child know how special he is because he’s old enough to be a helper. You can give him a sense of significance and pride in his own accomplishment by allowing him to become involved in caring for the baby. Make sure you give him only tasks that he’s capable of handling. For example, you might let him choose the baby’s outfit every morning.


  • Affirm your older child.
    When people compliment a mom on her new baby, they often ignore the older child. You can counteract this by praising your toddler in front of others. Encourage family members and friends not to forget to make the older sibling feel special, too.

For some kids, this transition can be difficult with plenty of tears and tantrums. But with a little sensitivity and effort, you can help pave the way for a lifelong friendship between your child and his new sibling. If you need further suggestions, get in touch with our Counseling department for a free phone consultation.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Focus on the Family Complete Guide to Baby & Child Care

Helping Kids Adjust to a New Baby

How to Prepare Siblings for the New Baby

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