For any young child, expecting a new baby sibling into the family is a drastic change. But there are ways to help ease that transition–both for you as a concerned parent and for your child who has long been accustomed to your undivided attention. Here are a few tips:

Consider Your Child’s Age When Preparing If your child is one and a half versus three or four years old, there’s a big difference in the extent to which you can “prepare” him for his sibling’s arrival. Consider your child’s level of comprehension when it comes to new and abstract concepts (such as having a real live baby!) Taking a sibling class can be a great introduction to the idea and compliment to your preparation efforts at home. But age is an important factor here because many classes are geared toward kids older than three years old—so just be sure to check with the class provider before you register. Boston Baby Beginnings is a great option because it tailors its Sibling Class to accommodate children from one- to seven-year-olds. Isis Parenting offers great Sibling Classes as well from three- to six-year-olds.

Use Props! No matter your child’s age, you’ll want to start talking about the baby when you’ve got a noticeable bump you can reference. Other effective tools include:

  • Home videos and photos. Regularly watch home videos of when he was a baby to familiarize him with what a baby does, its size, noises, etc.
  • Friends’ and family’s babies. Talk about and spend time with friends or family who have young babies to get your child used to being around them.
  • Books. There are many children’s books on the market discussing the addition of a new sibling. Check some out of the library or buy a few, read them regularly and reference them when discussing your new baby.
  • Dolls. Boy or girl, your child can gain a lot from role playing with a baby doll or stuffed animal. Demonstrate how you’ll change the baby’s diaper and allow your child to do it as well.
  • Painting and coloring. Sit down with your child and draw pictures of your new family with the baby. Ask your child to draw a picture to welcome his baby sibling and be sure to bring it to the hospital and give it its due attention!

Avoid Drastic Changes around Your Baby’s Arrival Some changes may be unavoidable, such as a new home or childcare provider, but if you can keep things relatively calm and schedules stable just before and after the baby is born, it will help your child adjust. Too much change in a short period can be overwhelming and cause your child to act out or become overly clingy. So if you have three months to get the potty training over with before the baby’s arrival, you may be doing yourself a favor!

Don’t Worry Babies and kids pick up on anxiety of their parents so it’s important that you try to remain relaxed about your family’s new structure. If your child does react harshly at the arrival of your baby, know that these things tend to go over in a matter of days and thereafter adjust without too much incident. Just keep trying to communicate calmly the reality of the new situation and highlight the special place that your child occupies in the family.

Find even more practical advice on your baby’s first three months in The Baby Nurse Bible.