While you may be thrilled at the prospect of a new baby arriving, this massive change can be harder for your existing children to accept. Some children are worried that they might lose their bond with you, while others struggle to adjust to the change in daily routine. The following nine tips will help you offer empathy, support, and reassurance to your children as they adjust to the idea of sharing you with a brand new sibling.
1. Discuss the new baby openly
When you announce the news to your children, welcome their questions, and try to give full, clear answers that help them understand why you are expanding the family. For example, your children might wonder if they haven’t pleased you, or they may have a powerful fear of being replaced. It’s important to be explicit that the new arrival won’t be a rival for your affections and that you have a limitless supply of love for all of your children.
2. Expose them to positive sibling bonds
If you have more than one child, it might be easy to explain how great it can be to have a new sibling. However, an only child might benefit from illustrative examples (such as fond memories of the fun you’ve enjoyed with your own siblings). Close sibling bonds in movies and TV shows can also provide some evidence that there are tangible benefits to having a brother or sister. The key idea to convey is that the baby will most likely grow into a fun playmate and close friend. Some children also respond positively to the thought that they can be a role model to their new sibling, teaching them, and influencing their development.
3. Reconnect them with their own early years
The needs and behaviors of newborn babies can be quite perplexing to children, so try to help them reconnect to the time when they too needed constant assistance. You can use photo albums, videos, and anecdotes to explain how they were once just as small and helpless. At the same time, children who are concerned about losing some of your attention may be relieved to consider that the new member of the family will also grow up to be more independent.
4. Set aside special time to spend together
Use actions as well as words to prove to your other children that they matter just as much as the new baby. One way to do this is by asking someone else to look after the baby while you do something fun with the other children. Knowing that you sometimes deliberately put them first will make them feel valued.
5. Help them make useful contributions
You can make your children feel important, responsible, and helpful if you find ways to let them assist you in caring for the new baby. Think of straightforward and risk-free things like fetching a bottle, helping you dress the baby or reading a story as the baby falls asleep. As you involve your older children in this way, be sure to note that you greatly appreciate the support and that the baby will too. However, don’t force this type of interaction too early—some children need some time to get used to the idea of the new sibling’s presence before wanting to help out with tasks.
6. Describe the other children to the baby
While hearing a description of their brothers or sisters won’t mean anything to a brand new baby, it can mean a lot to the children listening! Tell the baby all about how wonderful, smart, and fun your other children are, describing some of your hopes for their future shared adventures.
7. Talk to other relatives
Even if you and your partner display perfect sensitivity, your children might still become very stressed by the presence of a new baby if other relatives convey a different message. Talk to aunts, uncles, and grandparents about how they can continue to make older children feel significant. For example, they might send a card congratulating them on becoming a big sister or brother or make an effort to spend extra quality time together.
8. Try to keep irritation in check
Looking after a new baby can be exhausting, but it’s important to be patient if your older children make a noise that wakes the baby or does something that sparks a fresh round of crying. While it’s good for them to understand that they need to be careful around the baby, try to grit your teeth and take a deep breath if the disruption was clearly accidental.
9. Reward honesty with comfort
Finally, children may intuitively assume it is taboo to share some of their worries or resentments once the baby has actually arrived, so it’s helpful to let them know that they can ask or tell you anything that’s on their mind. When your children do confess difficult thoughts or feelings, comfort them with physical affection as well as reassuring words. A heartfelt cuddle can go a long way!
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