Whether it is child number 2, 3, or 4, a new baby always changes the dynamics of the family. The only child suddenly becomes the older sibling or your younger child is thrown into the middle child role. Things are changing for everyone and sometimes this can cause a bit of jealousy and sibling rivalry. So, what can you do to help the kids adjust to your new arrival? Here are a few tips.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew that when she was born, it might be a tough transition for the other children. So, I was very conscious about trying to make it as smooth of a transition for everyone as possible. Sure, we all had to get used to the midnight cries from the nursery, but my husband and I tried really hard to make sure our kids were able to adjust to their little sister without too much bitterness. Of course, you probably can’t completely get rid of sibling rivalry. In fact, my son and daughter still sometimes argue up to today! But, here are some of the things that we did in the early days to help out.
- Prepare the kids in advance. The more involved your kids are before the actual arrival of the baby, the better the transition. Let your kids come with you to prenatal visits, especially when you’re having a sonogram. My son was pretty excited to see his little sister on the screen. There are also tons of books and videos that you can use to help prepare the older children for what to expect. And many parents allow preschoolers to practice holding a doll in preparation for the new baby’s arrival. There are many things you can do to prepare your children, but it’s very important to do so.
- Make it a celebration. When you bring the new baby home – make it a homecoming celebration. Be sure that dad or another relative walks the baby into the house so that you can greet the other children with lots of hugs and hi-fives. You might want to even have snacks, a cake, gifts, and order a special dinner to celebrate the occasion. But be sure that the celebration is about the entire family and not just the new baby.
- Make every role important. Really play up the new roles of your older children. Express how important big sisters and brothers are. Let them help you get the baby ready for the day or prepare bottles, if you’re bottle-feeding. Make your kids feel extra special as big brothers and sisters.
- Make QUALITY time a priority. The new baby will take up a lot of your time in the early days. So, it’s important for you to make sure that you are intentional about carving out some time with the older children. You may not have as much time as you used to, but make the time that you do have really count. Focus on quality, not quantity.
- Allow them to keep a sense of self. Your kids are still the same children that they were before the baby arrived so it’s important that they get to keep a sense of self. When visitors arrive, guide them to greet your older children first. Remind family and friends that the other children have interests outside of the baby and let them have some time to talk about themselves. Also, if you need to make any changes, such as room assignments or moving your toddler to the big girl bed, be sure to do it way before the new baby arrives. I found that this tip really helped when we brought our little girl home.
- Get back into a routine as quickly as possible. Things will be a little off at first, but be sure to get back into a routine as quickly as possible. This helps the whole family stay balanced.
Adjusting to a new baby will be hard work for everyone. There’s no way around that. But these tips can make the transition easier for the whole family.