11 Tips on Transitioning an Only Child To a Big Brother/Sister

A common question we were asked after having our second daughter, Kennedy, was how Lilly was taking it. Was she enjoying being a big sister? Was she jealous? Etc. When Lilly became a big sister, the transition was SO smooth and honestly I couldn’t have been happier or more thankful for how seamless the transition was.  I wanted to share a few tips we did to help make that transition from Lilly being the only child to being a big sister! We were really intentional with preparing her heart, so here are a few things we did:

*Keep in mind that Lilly was 3.5 years old when Kennedy was born, so the age gap I feel really helped. Some of these aren’t going to be applicable to a child much younger who isn’t quite talking yet, etc. 
  1. Start prepping them early. By “prepping” I mean start having the conversation about being a big sibling sooner rather than later. We started when I found out I was pregnant, but really started having some conversations about a few months before my due date. We would talk about how, soon, the baby will come out of mommy’s tummy. How the baby will be so little, so we have to be gentle, and soft with her. How she would love Lilly so much, because she would be her big sister!
  2. Practice patience before baby/sibling comes. When the child is an only child, often they don’t necessarily have to be patient because they are our only one. We are quick to get them whatever they need, and that’s amazing! However, with two, I knew there would be times where Lilly was going to have to be a little patient while I was taking care of the baby’s needs. So, we started practicing this at home before Kennedy came. Practically, that was saying things like, “I would love to play legos with you, just give me five minutes to talk with daddy first and then I will be right there and we can play!” Keeping the excitement but just adding a required “patience” time (keeping this quick to start!)
  3. Books! Books are such a fun way to show them what it may look like when baby comes. We got this one, and really liked it! Simple and cute. Here is the big brother version.

  4. Talking with family/friends. This is something my mother-in-love really helped with, and was SO important and helpful. We talked about how when someone comes to visit the baby, that it will be really helpful if they could first say hi to Lilly and then have Lilly show them her new sister! (You can even shoot your friend or family member a quick text before coming to visit.) This made it so that when people came over, or we went to visit friends, it wasn’t all about Kennedy. Lilly was able to be apart of the excitement rather than feeling left out. This one is pretty crucial to keeping their hearts feel known and loved.
  5. Gifts/Special Dates: I really felt like the time before Kennedy came was such a special time, really soaking in those last moments of just us three. Throughout my pregnancy we gave Lilly some little gifts, and told her why we were giving them to her. Because she was going to be such a great big sister and we felt like that was something to celebrate. We also did a lot of fun family dates that I knew we maybe wouldn’t be able to do in that sweet newborn season.
  6. Baby shower tip: If your first is old enough or will be attending the baby shower, I really would encourage you to get a gift or two for your oldest! This was really special for me to do with Lilly while I was opening gifts. I gave her her gift (her big sister book + a couple small toys I knew she’d love.) This made her feel so special and chosen. I also involved her in opening gifts for Kennedy and kept the excitement up about her big sister duties, like helping mommy get her dressed, or whatever the gift was! It also helped that Lilly’s friends were there so she wasn’t totally bored watching me open gifts haha!
  7. Be patient and have grace for how they are taking it: Lilly never acted out behaviorally before or after Kennedy came. She didn’t get jealous or angry, she loved her sister deeply from the first moment she saw her. However, she did start to become really sensitive with us (especially Kyle) a couple months before baby came and a month or two afterwards. I think she could really start to tell she wasn’t going to be the only one anymore, so she did get a little big clingy and VERY sensitive with discipline. Because of this, we were a little bit more gentle with her as far as discipline and timeouts etc., because I knew her heart was preparing and going through changes too. When I felt like she just needed some extra love/cuddles I made sure to take the time to do that. I think just being aware and really paying attention to your child and how they are expressing this new change is really vital. If I hadn’t of been really intentional with this, I would’ve just said the was acting out for no reason and I think that could’ve been devastating to her heart. I’m so passionate about being purposeful, intentional, and thoughtful with really seeing our kids, and their hearts.
  8. Gentle correction:  Inevitably there are going to be moments where you’re going to want to shout out of panic, “don’t do that!” “that’s too rough!” “be gentle!” “you’re hurting her!” Haha. Welcome to the life of two! From the start, we really tried to be intentional with correcting her gently,  when I felt she was being too rough. (In her mind, she is playing with or taking care of her sissy, so I didn’t want to hurt her feelings by telling her she was wrong.) So instead, I would say things like “Watch how mommy does that, ok, now you try!” or, “Oops, that’s a little too rough. Remember babies get scared easily. Do _____ instead, she really likes that!” Simple phrases like this really helped.
  9. Praise praise praise!: This one directly follows with #8. Every time Lilly did something sweet, loving, or handled Kennedy gently I would praise her and make it known she was doing a wonderful job! In my book, this is crucial! Taking the extra time to praise rather than only correcting, really makes a world of difference. It let her know I was so proud of her and really thought she was doing such an amazing job!
  10. Be quick to guard your child’s heart: For some reason, people can be really quick to say things like, “How do you like your new sister? You’ll like her soon enough” or I’ve gotten “Do you like being a big sister? I’m sure you will soon!” Huh?! Haha. I don’t know why some can be so quick to assume that the big brother/sister doesn’t enjoy their sibling… but immediately when someone says this I always say something along the lines of “Oh she loves her sister, she is is the best big sister in the world!” (I know for some there is major jealousy issues – in which case I still thinks speaking life into the relationship and bond between siblings is really important, rather than just nodding in agreement with a stranger and not taking an opportunity for life giving words!)
  11. Most importantly… PRAY!: From the beginning of my pregnancy I prayed and prayed for Lilly’s heart to be prepared for a sister. I prayed she would know how loved she is, by myself, her daddy, and most of all Jesus. That her heart would expand and her and her sister would have a special bond like none other. That she would love her from the start. I prayed against feelings of jealousy and prayed for a unity between them. That there would be no comparison but just pure sister friendship. Those were my main prayers – but I’d encourage you to think about what you really want for your sons/daughters and pray that into them!

I hope these tips and tricks really help you transition your only child and make the transition as seamless as possible! If you have any other method’s you used that you found to be helpful, feel free to leave them in the comments so more mama’s can read and see what works! & if you’re expecting a second, CONGRATS! Two has really been the sweetest most fun season for us, praying the same for you friend!

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