Make way for baby
Tips to help your kids prepare for a new little brother or sister.
Guest Columnist Published: 5/24/2019
Expecting a baby is a joyous time for moms and dads as they prepare to welcome a new addition to the family. It’s exciting to get ready for the arrival and understandably, the process of getting things in order can sometimes keep parents more focused on the upcoming event rather than the status quo. But for an existing child, chances are he or she may not be as excited about getting a new baby brother or sister. Someone else honing in on their action doesn’t sound appealing – we all know how much children love to share, right?
It’s important to be aware of this potential jealousy and to know how to handle it, said Terrie Andrews, PhD, a clinical psychologist and administrator for Baptist Behavioral Health. For a toddler between 2-and-3 years old, start a conversation with the goal of setting expectations about what a new baby needs, such as constant feedings, diaper changes, being held and lots of sleep time. Then explain that these were all things they required, too.
“Turning the focus on the existing child and highlighting what it was like when he or she was a baby is a good place to start,” said Dr. Andrews. “Take this precious time to review their babyhood. Show pictures, reminisce about the baby shower and birth, and talk about the early years spent with family members.”
A successful transition begins by being proactive, and these little sessions also allow you to spend some one-on-one time with your child before the baby comes. When the baby does arrive, ask family members to bring a small gift so he or she feels celebrated and included, too, and keep some on hand for times when visitors arrive with something just for the baby. And when you have get-togethers and parties that are soon to come, involve your older child as much as possible in the planning, as well as with helping with the baby. Suggest he or she help you by carrying the diaper bag or talking to the baby, or placing a call to the grandparents to tell them a story such as how they helped mom with the baby at bath time or at the store.
Children who are more attached to mom than to dad have a harder time with the adjustment and may begin to develop new behaviors like acting out. “These negative behaviors can come in the form of tantrums, aggression toward the baby, and even regression such as baby talk, bedwetting and wanting to be coddled constantly,” explained Dr. Andrews. “This is fairly normal but if the behavior continues or escalates to the point where it’s difficult for your family to manage, it might be time to see professional guidance.”
Seeking help from family members, however, is something you shouldn’t wait to do. Having an aunt, uncle or special grandparent take your older child on outings is advantageous and needed as this gives you a break and time to rest when the baby is sleeping. It also works the other way around – having family members care for the baby while you spend some time with your older child in the park, reading books or attending a birthday party.