|How can I help my other children adjust to a new baby in our family?|
The New Kid in Town: Helping Toddlers Adjust to a New Baby
Q: "How can I help my toddler adjust to a new baby in the family?" -
A: TeacherCaregiver Suzanne says: Preparing siblings for the birth of a new baby is an exciting and challenging time. Here are a few ways to make this sometimes stressful transtition easier on you and your other children.
The toddler (and children of all ages) will cope better with your new addition if his schedule and routine stay as much the same as possible. Keep his preschool, waking and bedtime routines, and time with Mom and Dad consistent. This can be done while both parents are home after the birth, and with the help of family, friends and babysitters after one or both parents go back to work.
Helpers can assist you in this transition time by watching the new baby, allowing you to spend time with your older children. Do things you would normally do together, like visit a park, or play a game. Try to make time for an extra special outing as well, perhaps to the zoo, or another favorite place to share precious moments with your older children. That "special time" will mean a lot to them.
It can also be helpful to ask friends and family coming to visit you and the new baby, to first address your older children, and allow
to introduce their new baby brother or sister. An older brother will feel a great sense of pride in showing off his new sibling, and feel special in the process. I have seen many children become appreciative of their newborn siblings when they receive attention they otherwise wouldn't have.
Toddlers and other older children in your family will take pride in having specific roles to help with the baby: think of ways to incorporate responsibilities toward the baby into their lives. An older sibling, even as young as a toddler, can help prepare the babies nursery, even before the baby arrives.
Don't underestimate the importance of helping older children understand a new baby is on the way, even before you give birth.
When the baby comes home, give him an "important" job so he feels like a valued and respected member of the family. For example, he can help bring you a diaper when it is time to change the baby, or every evening he can get you a special blanket you use to cuddle the baby.
Expect toddlers and other siblings to act out! Recognize that parental attention reinforces behavior, so be selective when addressing your older children's actions. Remove the toddler from the room if his actions are aggresive toward the baby, but otherwise, try to ignore "acting out". He will be less likely to repeat the behavior is he receives no response or reaction from you. This kind of behavior will lessen as times goes on and the toddler is able to communicate his needs, wants, and frustrations verbally. Getting used to a new baby in the family takes time.
Taking these steps, and incorporating what works best for your family will help older children will begin to realize that the new baby
adds to, rather than takes away from, their life.
Our Expert: Suzanne, TeacherCare Director, Washington D.C.
M.Ed, Behavioral Consultant