Helping Your Older Child Adapt to a New Baby

Adding a new baby to the family can be an exciting time! With all the preparation, from washing tiny baby clothes to readying the nursery, there is one very important part of preparation that is often overlooked: preparing your older child or children for a new baby in the family. Intentionally taking this step together can make the transition to being a larger family much easier, and help older children adapt to their new role.

“You are Special!”

No matter how tired or worn out you may feel with the new baby, remember to always make your older child or children feel special. The majority of your attention may be going to the new baby, but the older children need to know that they still hold a special place in your heart. Make some time each day to do something special with them, such as reading a book or playing together one on one. If you are completely exhausted, a low-energy way to make this happen could be a “movie date,” complete with popcorn, while the littlest one naps. This one on one time can help avoid older children feeling like the new baby is taking mom and dad away, and can be a game changer as they learn to adapt.

Regression

Often times older children regress when a new baby is introduced to the family. They may have more accidents after they have been potty trained for months, ask for a bottle or to nurse even if they have been drinking from a sippy cup, or they may act out and misbehave. Instead of feeding into this regression, reinforce that being the big kid is an exciting and rewarding part of being in a family! Give your older children special jobs that both help you out and give them a sense of purpose, like helping clean bottles or picking up toys. In addition to these special jobs, try giving them special privileges that go along with being older.  They are a big kid, so they get to wear underpants, or ride their scooter on the sidewalk, or get a “big kid only” toy, like bubbles or markers. They may just surprise you with how well they step up!

Story Time!

There are so many good books out there about becoming a big brother or sister. Purchase a few that look enticing to you, or let your child lead by picking from a few of them at a local library or book store, and start reading them together long before the baby arrives. Continue picking them up and reading them after bringing the baby home to remind your children of what being an older sibling means. Use this story time as a gateway to talk about their feelings about the new baby, and to make sure they feel heard and cared for.

Introducing a new baby into the family can be a very exciting but overwhelming time for each family member. From mom and dad adjusting to a baby’s sleep schedule, to an older child adjusting to a new sibling in the house, there are a lot of adjustments that happen. Do your best in the midst of this stressful time to make sure that everyone is prepared to adapt to the new little family member!

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