When I became pregnant with my second baby, the person we were most excited to share the news with was our son.
The thought of our only child becoming a big brother was heartwarming. I knew he would be an amazing big brother and that the news would be greeted with excitement. I also wanted to make sure the enthusiasm lasted over the next 6 months of my pregnancy and more importantly after the baby arrived.
Being only 3 years old, I wasn’t sure if the “buzz” would wear off once the baby arrived. It wouldn’t have been unusual if he went through a jealous phase or even temporarily regressed in behavior. Fortunately for us, our little man adjusted beautifully as we became a family of four. He is proud to have been promoted to “Big Brother” and adores his little brother wholeheartedly. No jealousy. No regression.
Here are a few things that worked for us as we prepared our dude for his new and important role of becoming a big brother:
1. Prepare Before the Announcement. We began reading books and watching TV programs that gave him a glimpse into what change looks like for a 3 year old when a new baby comes home. We started preparing him for weeks before we told him about the baby in my belly. This gave him a chance to understand what this upgrade would mean and enough context to react, which was quite adorable. “I’m A Big Brother” by Joanna Cole is a great book. She has one called “I’m a Big Sister” as well. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood was a favorite TV show and luckily for us, Daniel’s mom and I were bump buddies and due within months of each other.
2. Emphasize the Benefits. There was more to gain and less to lose. We made the pregnancy a journey about positive changes it would bring. We used language that kept the focus on him. For example, instead of saying “We need to decorate the baby’s room” we would say “You get to help decorate the baby’s room”. He would be front and center, but we were still doing activities that concentrated on the baby. Win-win. Becoming a big brother would be a welcomed promotion with so many new and exciting adventures. He would get to hold the baby, teach the baby new things, show the baby our home. Why would he have any insecurities when this was going to be so much fun for him?
3. Do Projects Together. We did several, little projects together for the baby. He wrote a sweet letter to the baby and we made it extra special by framing it. He would make drawings for the baby and we’d proudly display them on our refrigerator. We’d make a big deal out of the sweet gestures of love he was already showing. And why wouldn’t we? It really was a big deal after all.
4. Update his Wardrobe. We got our big boy a few fun t-shirts to add to his wardrobe that displayed lingo like “Cool Big Bro” and “Best Bro Ever”. He got to pick out a few of them himself, which was even more exciting. He was so proud to wear these as if it was a badge of honor.
5. Deliver a Present from the Baby. We prepared a present from the baby, which he received at the hospital. It came with a simple note that said how excited the baby was to have him as a big brother. Our guy was into taking photographs, so what better than a digital camera as a present. He was so excited to take pictures of his new little brother. It really was the perfect present.
6. Solicit Help. We allowed him to be our helper as much as possible. Letting him give his baby brother a bottle when we’re already 10 minutes behind schedule getting out the door isn’t realistic. But we do our best to allow him lots of opportunities to help with diaper changes or feed the baby. It takes a little longer and little more patience, but the proud look on his face is priceless. I also think it’s an important stepping stone into creating a bond between siblings. Myself, being an older sibling, I remember taking care of my sister as a kid and that need to look out for her has stayed with into adulthood. I feel it’s important for the older sibling to feel that sense of responsibility to a certain degree and we want to instill this in our son.
7. Continue One-on-One Time. We set aside one-on-one time with our big boy. Even when the sleep deprivation is hitting us and some days, we are just trying to survive, we try to set aside time that is meant just for him. We get so busy in our daily routine that it’s cherished time for both of us. We still go on Mommy-Son dates. He and Daddy go to basketball practice together. And some days it’s as simple as having pillow talks or playing a board game. I love my special time with my older son and I’ll do the same with my baby as he gets older too.
Growing our family has been a blessing and it’s that much more rewarding to watch our boys already share a bond. Setting a strong foundation will only build their sweet and loving friendship as the years pass far too quickly. I have no doubt that they will eventually compete, argue, and complain about each other, but if they have a need to come back to one another at the end of the day, then I will have done my job well- to instill the importance of family togetherness, always.