A new baby means some major changes for the entire family. Children’s reactions can vary from being helpful with diapers or feedings to jealousy or baby-like behavior. Preparing your child for the new baby will help get their bond off to a good start. Here are some steps you can take to help ease the big life change.
Before Baby Arrives
Babble about babies
- Three to four months before baby is due, talk to your toddler about the arrival of their new brother or sister. For school-aged children, tell them at the start of the pregnancy.
- After the big talk, discuss all things newborn: that they sleep a lot, cry, cannot play or crawl, and need lots of snuggles.
- Use this time to share stories about when your other child was born or when they were babies.
- It can also be helpful to spend time around a friend or family member’s baby so your child can see what babies do and how they look and sound.
Ask your child for help
- Another way to sooth new-baby worries is to get your child involved.
- Let them feel the baby kick, or make a present for the baby together.
- Include your child in coming up with a list of baby names as a family.
Stick to the routine
- Long before baby arrives, make any upcoming changes to your child’s routine, including moving from a crib to a bed, or starting new child care—they will need time to adjust.
- Rather than pointing out that the changes are because of the baby, point to their own growth: “You’re a big girl now, so it’s time for you to sleep in a big girl’s bed.”
Now That Baby Is Here
When you are ready, have your child meet their new sibling.
- Talk ahead of time and make a plan with them about what to expect.
- If your new baby is at a hospital, prepare your older child for the quiet hospital environment and what they might experience.
- Some kids enjoy making cards and small gifts to bring along.
- It’s not unusual for a child to be quiet or distant when first visiting a hospital—they will interact when they are ready.
Once home, give baby over to your spouse or family member so you can spend some extra time with your elder child, and provide extra snuggles if they are open to it.
Although a new baby can throw the family routine out of whack, try to keep your older child’s routine as close to normal as possible. This includes sticking to regular mealtimes, bedtimes, and other activities.
Toddlers are natural-born helpers and involving them in baby care is a great way to spend extra time together and encourage the sibling bond. Here are some “special helper” ideas:
- Getting diapers or blankets
- Checking on the baby
- Singing songs to the baby
- Picking out a new outfit for the baby
The parent/child relationship changes when a new baby enters the picture, and children need time to adjust. Some children may feel resentment toward the new baby—sharing a parent is hard! As a result, you may experience these behaviors and challenges:
- Temper tantrums
- Baby-like behaviors
- Separation anxiety
- Roughness with the baby
If a child feels they aren’t getting as much attention, challenging behaviors are more likely to surface.
- Make an extra effort to notice and comment on their good behavior—“I really like how you are holding the baby’s hand so gently”
- Look for additional chances to spend some one-on-one time together.
Talking with your child about their feelings goes a long way in helping them work through their emotions.
- You might hear, “I don’t like the baby,” or “Can we take her back to the hospital?” If this happens, tell them you understand how they feel and agree that it’s not always fun to have a baby around. But follow this up with what you do love about the baby and what’s hard for you as the parent (such as night feedings).
- Kids love stories, so reading stories about children who are also having mixed feelings about their brother or sister will let them know that it’s okay to feel this way.
Should your child act out in an inappropriate way, remember to:
- Be consistent with your rules and consequences
- Ignore minor behaviors, such as using a baby voice
- Act quickly on serious misbehaviors, such as rough handling of the new baby
Your elder child might need a little extra time to get used to the idea of sharing family time. A little planning—and patience—will go a long way to help make the introduction of your new bundle of joy easier on the whole family.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com). Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website (https://parentingnow.org/) or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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