Summer is upon us. Time for weddings and babies.
There is great joy in bringing home a new baby, but it can also be an adjustment phase for older siblings who might feel resentment and/or jealousy. They might even feel a little anger as they struggle to figure out their new place in the ever changing family dynamic.
An older sibling’s biggest concern is that there just won’t be enough love for them, with a new baby in the house.
As parents there are some things we can do to help create a smooth transition for our family and the new baby.
1. Talk about what will NOT change.
Even though we know that things will change, it is important to talk to older children about what will stay the same. Kids like predictability. It makes them feel safe and secure. If they think the new baby will make everything in your family “different”, they won’t be very excited about the new baby.
2. Focus on their role as a big sibling.
Talk to your older children about how they will be great big brothers and sisters. Be smart about it though. Getting our older kids excited about things the baby can’t do until they are 5 (like playing tag), will create false hopes.
3. Don’t blame the baby.
We shouldn’t say “we can’t go ______ because of the baby.” This will teach our children to resent the new baby because he/she is keeping them from what they want, and changing how you would normally do things. Leave the baby out of it.
4. Let your children help make decisions.
There are lots of little decisions that your older children can make and do so they feel they are apart. They could choose some new clothes for the baby, or make decisions about the paint colors for the nursery. Have your kids make artwork and then frame it for the babies room. I even have some friends who let their kids help choose the babies name. One friend lets her children choose the baby’s middle name. What ever it is, involve siblings in making meaningful decisions when you are preparing for a new baby. When kids get to make decisions, they feel ownership and that they are included.
Once you bring the baby home…
Stick to your routine.
Remember that kids like things to be predictable. Try to keep things after the baby, the same as they were before the baby arrived. How? Think about the parts of your day and activities that mean the most to your children and do your best to make sure those things don’t change.
Control the Celebration.
It is normal to be excited about the new baby. But older siblings will start to resent the new addition if the constant cootchy-cooing makes them feel left out. Continue to pay attention to your older children and ask that family and friends do the same. I have a dear friend who always drops off dinner when we have a new baby. When she comes, instead of rushing to the new baby, she brings a small treat for our other kids and talks to them first. She congratulates them on being big brother/sister’s. It always makes them feel special.
Don’t make the baby off limits.
This one is always hard for me. Between post pregnancy hormones and lack of sleep, I catch myself wanting the kids to keep their distance from the new baby. But, we should work hard to let our kids be involved in the experience, and not make the baby off limits to our older children.
Have them read stories and sing to the baby. They can choose what the baby is going to wear and round up necessaries for the diaper bag. When we had our second child, I included our son who was 2 at the time, to do everything with us. He helped me bathe her by pouring water on her feet, he read stories to us as I nursed her, and made smiley faces at her when I dressed her. There are so many things our kids can do to help, and they will be much better behaved if we include them instead of shoo-ing them away.
Plan one-on-one time.
Spending one-on-one time with each of our children individually is one of the best ways to make the transition smooth. 15 minutes of individual time a day. As simple as this sounds, a new baby, new responsibilities and not a lot of sleep can make this simple suggestion sound impossible. Do all in your power to make it a priority. Take time to show older children pictures of when they were young. Watch home videos of them as babies. Talk about how cute they were and what a special time it was when they were babies. Go get a special treat and talk, visit the library, play ball, read to them, draw together. Show them Love. Remember, love is spelled T-I-M-E.
Take some time pre-baby to think about the ways you can prepare your older children. When the baby arrives and your mind has been taken over by sleeplessness and hormones, the transition will be one less thing to worry about.
Do you have a baby on the way? When are you due?
Have any of your children struggled with jealousy towards a new addition?