What Do You Tell Your Child About Their New Special Sibling?

older daughter and new  baby
Image via Rachel Engel

The night before my scheduled c-section, I cried as I carried my daughter to her bed. This was her last night as an only child, and she had absolutely no idea.

Would she be able to handle the transition to big sister? Would it be difficult? Would she hate him? Would it scar her forever?

Clearly, I was overthinking things, as siblings have been born and integrated into families seamlessly for years, but, hey, I was an emotional, 40-week pregnant woman. I had a lot on my mind.

Initially, bringing him home was fine. As long as she could still watch her Peppa Pig in either my or her father's lap, she was content. 

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Then … things got crazy. Twelve days after bringing her brother home, he was rushed to the emergency room for rapid breathing. That was May 11, and he has been admitted at a children's hospital ever since, just now recovering from heart surgery.

So, our daughter's world was turned completely upside down; way more than I was originally worried about. And, now, her brother is going to come home with a scar from his hernia-like (don't ask!) repair, a port on his tummy for his implanted feeding tube since he no longer eats by mouth, and a huge scary scar on his chest.

What do I tell her?

Nothing. She's (nearly) 3-years-old, much too young to understand the medical complexities of her younger brother. Since she does grasp the concept of what her belly button is, we will probably explain to her that Jackson is special and has TWO belly buttons, and that's how he eats.

If I know my Sydney, she will probably drop her signature, “Sooo cuuuuute,” and that will be it. 

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As she gets older, and questions about his other medical anomalies arise, such as his small hand, we will sit her down and explain how Jackson might be differently made than how she was, but that doesn't make him odd. It makes him special and unique, just like all sweet babies.

Even her.

She will handle the reintegration of her brother flawlessly, I know it. Everything we've had to deal with over the last few months has reminded me to not sweat the stuff, and introducing a sister to her brother? Definitely small stuff.


What do you think?

What Do You Tell Your Child About Their New Special Sibling?

Rachel is a stay-at-home-mom to her 4-year-old daughter, Sydney, and her 18-month-old son, Jackson. Her writing can be found all over the web, mostly detailing her own parenting struggles and triumphs, as well as her life as the military spouse of an active-duty airman. She also writes about her life as as a special needs parent on her blog, Tales From the Plastic Crib, and spends an unnecessary amount of time on Twitter. ... More

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1 comment

  1. Jolie says:

    Wow Rachel, I am speechless. I really should stop worrying about “the small stuff”.
    You and your family will be now forever in my mind. thank you for this post.


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