How can we help our 3-year old prepare for a new sibling?

New babies bring changes to the family, especially when there is already an older sibling. What can you do to prepare a toddler to be a big sister or brother?

By Dr. Kimberley Bennett




about the doc

Dr. Kimberley Bennett has a Doctorate in Child, Adolescent and Educational Psychology.  She has been a Registered Psychologist for 10 years. When not at her practice, she is a mother to two beautiful children. Her eldest was the inspiration behind The Psychologist’s Child. Becoming a mother taught her more than any of her professional trainings to date. Her highly sensitive son guided her down the gentle parenting path which has aligned so seamlessly with the theory and research that she studied and practiced throughout her Psychology career.

Dr. Bennett has a particular interest in Child Development, Attachment Theory, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Infant Mental Health, Positive & Gentle parenting.


You can find more of Dr. Bennett’s work on her website

My husband and I are expecting our 2nd child. We are very excited to welcome a daughter into the world, but we are worried about the changes our 3-year-old son might feel. He is used to being the only child, and we know we can’t give him the same level of attention he had before once the baby arrives.  What are some things we can do to ease the transition and help him emotionally through the change?

As a mother who recently welcomed a new baby into our family when my son was 3, I can totally relate to your question and to your concerns.

A new baby can cause dramatic shifts in the relationships within a family, and it often takes a lot longer for an older sibling to adjust than most families realize. As a Psychologist, I tend to suggest that you might experience tricky periods in your older child’s behavior during the baby’s first year to 18 months. The thing is, during the first two years, the baby goes through so many transformations. This means that the older sibling has to adjust to this new baby in all their varying forms from a sleepy newborn to a crawling infant, and an emotional, walking, toy snatching toddler.

It is so important to hold in mind an older sibling’s experience when a new baby comes into the family.

They may experience jealousy, resentment, possessiveness, insecurity around their position in the family and most significantly, grief. Like us as parents, older siblings may mourn this dramatic shift in their relationship with you. Your older sibling will need to adjust to your arms being full of this other person. Why am I telling you all of this? Because if you want to know how best to support your child, the first step is to truly step into your child’s experience. When parents take time to do this, it enables them to navigate the transition with empathy and compassion, and as much patience as they can muster.

I also recommend that parents consciously increase their connection to the older sibling so that they feel all that unconditional love that you have for them.

Remember relationships are less about quantity of time and more about quality of time spent together, so even though there will be times when you are less available to your older child, sprinkle moments of connection throughout your day

  • Stroke their hair as you walk past
  • Spend time every day cuddling and reading books together
  • Hold hands for no reason other than you love them

Some families find incorporating “special time” into their child’s day can be helpful. This involves carving out 15 minutes daily, completely free of distractions (no baby, no screens or devices) where your child chooses something special that they want to play with you.

Another rhythm that can feel connecting is to find time for just you and your “big kid” to do something special together. Even if that is just going for a walk on the weekend or heading to your local playground. Often parents and children benefit from protected time, just you and your child, to enjoy each other without the baby around.

I have a webinar “Supporting Your Child to Adjust to a New Baby” which answers your question in a lot more detail if you would like to check it out:


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