Q&A: Prepping 3-year-old for a new sibling

Angie writes:

"With baby #2's arrival just around the corner, I was wondering what your thoughts are regarding preparing my first for the baby and just how to prepare myself for parenting 2 boys. My first will be one month shy of 3 when the baby comes."

First, I'd say to read Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (the authors of How To Talk So Kids Will Listen...). Not only is it helpful for understanding your relationships with your own siblings (both as kids and now), it will help you set your kids up for success at interacting with each other. There's a lot in it about avoiding putting siblings into roles and helping kids support each other instead of competing.

I'd also check out the chapter about siblings in NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. It looks at research studies and debunks some of the popular mythology about sibling relationships in some interesting ways. It eased my mind a lot about my kids' relationships with each other, and lines up perfectly with what Faber and Mazlish say in Siblings Without Rivalry, so the two books are good reinforcement for the idea that you can raise siblings who get along. (NurtureShock also debunks some ideas about only children, so it's definitely worth reading if you have an only, and not guilt-inducing.)

Then, I'd help your little guy (soon to be your big guy) by talking a lot about babies and practicing what it will be like with a baby. Get him a doll if he doesn't already have one (you might want to find an anatomically correct boy doll if you can, since he'll be having a brother), and talk about what babies do vs. what big boys like him do. Often a child's fears of having a sibling are about being afraid the new baby will take his things, so emphasizing what a baby can and can't do and setting expectations will help.

Know, also, that often kids around the age of 3 will be great with a new baby for the first month or two, then get annoyed that the baby is still there but not a good playmate, and then will be happy about the baby again once the baby starts moving. So it's all a cycle, and your kids will go through phases of loving that the other one is there and wishing they were the only. It's normal. Annoying and emotional, but normal.

My biggest piece of advice as a mom of two boys to you about mothering two boys is this: Hug them all the time. Boys need hugs. Which is not to say that girls don't need hugs, because of course they do. But I think our culture pushes boys to resist hugs or deny that they need hugs, or even be in motion so much that they don't stop for hugs. But they need them. A lot. Whenever something goes wrong, hug first and then start unraveling it.

Also, expect a lot from them. I spend a lot of time observing and talking to adult men who I admire. And what seems to stand out as the common thread in these deeply good men (who are not all "nice" men, but they are good) is that they were expected to be excellent, and given help being excellent, and helped to correct course when they got off path, and so they were excellent.

And hug them.

(Another thing I didn't know before I had two boys: Some boy sibling pairs fight. All the time. For fun. Some don't, but if you end up with one that does, like my guys, establish some protective ground rules about location and form--no sticks in the house, if one is actually hurt either physically or emotionally the other has to make it right, no crotch shots--and then try not to freak out about it too much.)

Who else has advice for Angie, about prepping her son for the new baby, or about being a parent of two boys?