Having a new baby in the family may be one of the toughest experiences for older children. Here are some tips that may help them to adjust to the new changes.
Merri Wallace, a parenting expert, shared an extreme example of child rivalry when telling the story of a three-year-old who packed her stuffed animal in a gym bag and headed for the door, saying she had to find a new family after her mother told her that the family was welcoming a new baby soon. For parents, it is key to think about a strategy that prepares the older children in the family ahead of time for their new baby sibling in order to help them to better understand the situation.
How can parents prepare children ahead of time for having a newborn at home?
There are some basic tips that can help prepare older children. For instance, it is a good idea to explain the reasons behind having another baby, because it is important for the older children to hear that their parents are not trying to replace them. Therefore, it is important to describe positive experiences, such as the older child being able to have a friend to play with when the baby is older. Older children will also need to be reassured that their parents have enough love for both of them and that there is no need to fear that the new baby will receive all attention and love.
Of course, children will feel differently about the arrival of a newborn depending on their age.
Helping Babies Adjust
Young children are almost clueless when it comes to the arrival of a sibling. Yet, it can be a very tough time for children under the age of 2 because they also require the full attention of their parents. At this time is important to schedule some alone time with the older child, each day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. It is key to ensure that the older child feels loved and receives attention. For instance, when they come into the room smile at them or give them a hug and kisses. Surely, there are times when parents are busy and cannot focus on the older child. Dr. Walfish, a children expert says that parents should not fall into the trap of negotiating with their children. If the time is inconvenient to pick them up because the baby needs to be fed, it is okay to tell the older child to come and snuggle next to them instead.
Helping Toddlers Adjust
It is common for toddlers to act whiny and clingy. Their behavior can become even more extreme when a newborn is around. Many children want to drink from a baby bottle again even if they’ve started using a cup. It is also possible that the bedtime routine collides with the newborn’s needs or that the youngsters want to sleep in their parents’ bed when seeing the baby in the room. Parents’ advisor Jenn Berman notes that many toddlers feel very conflicted about a new sibling because a part of them wants to be like the new baby while the other part wants to be independent. Parents can help their kids by finding words for their mixed emotions. Parents can let them experiment with being a baby for a short while. Usually, this helps children to get over the wish and move on. It is also helpful to plan ahead while being pregnant to help children to adjust to a new daily life. If bedtime routines will be shortened, transfer the task to the other available parent. It makes sense to start the transition as early as possible, helping the child to adapt and let him or her know that the other parent is super excited to spend more time together.
Helping Preschoolers Adjust
Pre-schoolers are often more understanding and need explanation for certain actions. If the newborn spits up on them or plays with their belongings, explain to them that the baby does not do mean to do these things on purpose and that they can put their belongings away where the baby cannot reach them. At this age, children have better coping skills and can wait a little bit longer. Although toddlers have a more independent life, such as going to school, meeting friends and engaging in other activities, they are still attached to their parents and need attention. A good idea is to have one-to-one time regularly spending time with them at the playground or go to get ice cream. Having a little bit of time before going to bed or before going to school in the mornings also shows them that their parents pay attention to them. During these times, ask them how they feel, what they find fun or hard about the baby. If they are showing feelings of jealousy it is important that parents reassure them of their love and offer help.