Tips for preparing your first child for a new sibling

If you're planning to have your second child, you may be so busy with your pregnancy that you haven't had the time to have a real discussion with your first child about what will change once the new baby comes. According to the University of Michigan Health System, sibling rivalry can start before the arrival of a second child, which is why it's important that you prepare your older child for what his or her life will be like once the baby is born. 

Luckily, there are some simple things that you can do to assure your older child that although things are going to change once the new baby arrives, it doesn't mean that you're going to love him or her any less. With a little help, you may even be able to get your child excited about becoming a brother or sister. 

Tell your child soon - If you recently discovered that you're pregnant, you should tell your older child at the same time that you tell your friends and extended family. You don't want anyone assuming that your child knows and talking about your pregnancy in front of him or her. Your child needs to hear about his or her future sibling from you, not from anyone else. 

Talk to your child about when he or she was a baby - WebMD recommended that you talk to your older child about what he or she was like as a baby. Talk to your child about how much he or she cried or ate or stayed up at night. This may help him or her connect to the new baby by remembering that he or she was once just like his or her new sibling. 

Get a baby doll - Give your older child a baby doll and encourage him or her to take care of it like it is the new baby. This may get him or her excited about having a real baby come into your home, and he or she may be eager to help you care for the new child. 

Recognize your own feelings - It might not just be your older child who is feeling conflicted about a new baby coming into your home, but yourself as well. 

"Some parents recognize their own ambivalence about having another child. They say that now and then, they feel they're betraying their firstborn or they wonder if they can handle raising another child.  Just knowing those feelings are natural and normal can help us find healthy ways to manage them," children's TV personality Fred Rogers wrote on his website. 

Knowing that there is nothing wrong with feeling overwhelmed may help you give the right amount of attention to both of your children. 

Be realistic - While you want your older child to be excited about the new baby's arrival, you also want to be honest about some of the more difficult changes your child will have to experience once the baby comes. For example, the new baby will cry, you and your partner will likely be more tired than you are now and the baby will also smell strange a lot of the time. Also, make sure your older child understands that, for a while, the new baby will not be able to do anything except eat, sleep and cry, so he or she shouldn't expect to be able to play with the baby until he or she is older and less fragile. 

Do you have more than one child? How did you prepare your older child for the birth of the second one? Leave your tips here!