Regardless of your child’s personality, assisting your child in adjusting to a new sibling is essential when expanding the family. With these strategies, the entire family can adapt to the changes more easily and ensure a smooth transition.
Your family’s life will undoubtedly change if you have a new baby. It’s normal for firstborns to feel envy, whether they’re toddlers or elementary school students. Firstborns frequently suffer when they realize they’re no longer the center of attention. Each child will express these complicated feelings in their own unique manner, which might range from extreme clinginess to regression to avoidance of the circumstance. Depending on how you respond to their reaction, your child may view their new sibling as a friend or an enemy.
Here, we’ve assembled an age-by-age manual for assisting your older child in adjusting to a new sibling after speaking with specialists.
Helping Young Children Get Used to a New Baby
Although young toddlers may appear to be almost oblivious to the birth of a new baby, becoming a big brother or sister before age two can be an extremely difficult journey. According to Fran Walfish, Psy.D., author of The Self-Aware Parent, “Accepting a new baby is by far the most challenging period for the firstborn. Every child requires their own entire spoonful of mommy. One tablespoon is equal to two years. Less can make siblings more envious of the infant and make them less willing to accept him or her as a full member of the family.
If your elder child doesn’t seem bothered by the newborn’s birth, problems may arise when the baby becomes mobile and starts grabbing their possessions.
How to Approach It
Enjoy the peace for the time being, if you can, and be sure to schedule some alone time with your toddler each day, even if it’s just to read a tale for 15 minutes while the baby is in someone else’s arms. As you did before, you were so worn out, remind yourself to smile when your child enters the room. (Giving a child who could be in need of it a smile and some affection don’t need much energy.)
Naturally, toddlers may be difficult to deal with, even without a new sibling. Dr. Walfish advises parents to avoid negotiating or pleading with their children. If they complain that you won’t pick them up because you’re nursing the baby, respond as follows: “You’re disappointed that I’m unable to take you up now. Also sad is me. Join the baby and me in our cuddle time. And let’s embrace after I’m done!”
Let your older child know that you love them a lot and that loving the baby doesn’t make you love them less (you might use the analogy that your child loving their grandparents doesn’t make them love you less). You might also tell them they will always have a particular place in your heart that no one else can take.
Getting Children to Get Used to a New Baby (2-3 Years Old)
This age group frequently exhibits weepy, fussy, or clingy behavior, especially after the novelty of a new infant has worn off. One of my 3-year-old twins has been incredibly envious ever since my kid got home, says Amy Shoaff of Westchester, California. She’ll scream until she gets the powder she claims she wants on her bottom and sees me applying it on the baby.
For toddlers, a regression can be a major indicator of jealousy. Children who have been weaned may desire to nurse once more or switch to a bottle after using a sippy cup contentedly for a while. Your baby’s fussy phase may coincide, unfortunately with bedtime procedures that drag on. Additionally, if the infant is in your room, a youngster who has been sleeping in their own bed may suddenly decide to want to sleep in yours. And if they’ve been sleeping all night, when they hear the baby at three in the morning, they can start experiencing nightmares or wanting to join in on the fun.
The majority of toddlers and preschoolers experience intense conflict over a new sibling. A part of them simply wants to be a baby, but another part, the self-sufficient, independent part, wants autonomy.
How to Approach It
Give your child’s conflicted feelings words. Use phrases like, “It appears that you, too, want to be a baby.” Allow your older child to play baby after that. The game might be enjoyable for one or two plays, but they’ll probably become bored eventually.
Talk to your older child about the advantages of being a “big kid” and how babies often receive attention because of their lack of independence. You might even call attention to them, remind them of the enjoyable items they can play with, the delectable foods they consume, and their daycare buddies.
Plan when you are expecting to assist your youngster in adjusting to their new daily routine. According to Edward R. Christophersen, Ph.D., a professional child psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri, “Bedtime patterns unavoidably be reduced when the new baby arrives.” Condense them beforehand, then. Before the baby is born, introduce the other parent to the morning ritual if your youngster is used to one parent handling it. Purchase a toddler bed for your older child months before the baby is due if the newborn will be sleeping in the crib (or get another crib). Additionally, it’s crucial to avoid blaming the infant for any unfavorable developments in the home because doing so will just lead to bitterness.
Adapting to a New Baby with Preschoolers and Kindergarteners (4-6 Years Old)
Children at this age are frequently kinder and more logical when it comes to the introduction of a new sibling. It is simpler to explain that they didn’t do it on purpose if the infant throws up on them. Additionally, you can assist the older child in putting away their favorite toys if the baby manages to get into theirs. (Choking hazards must be kept out of reach at all times.)
Along with being able to wait longer for a snack or tale and being able to take turns, preschoolers, and kindergarteners have superior coping mechanisms. In addition, they lead more of a self-contained life between activities, playdates, and school. The world of your child is expanding, and they are less dependent on you for everything. Nevertheless, you remain the person to whom they are most devoted; if you don’t give them the attention they require, they may feel neglected and misbehave.
How to Approach It
According to Dr. Berman, the best treatment for your older child’s fear of abandonment is one-on-one time. Invite them to go with you, even if it’s only to the grocery store, and, if at all feasible, leave the infant at home with your partner. Incorporating this one-on-one time into your daily schedule can be beneficial so that kids get used to it. Additionally, be your older child’s champion when the baby behaves in a way that can aggravate them: Replace the damaged book and play a calming music on your phone to help them block out the crying. Say, “It’s challenging, I know. Together, let’s take a long, deep breath.”
Getting Older Children to Get Used to a New Baby (7-8 Years Old)
Your child may only respond with “Fine” if you ask them how their day was. According to Dr. Walfish, it takes more work to get kids of this age to talk about their feelings. Getting children to communicate any jealousy that can result in rude conduct is difficult.
How to Approach It
Asking your child to recall what it was like to be the lone child in the home and how things have changed is something Dr. Walfish advises doing. What about the baby is challenging and enjoyable, you might wonder. If they express feelings of jealousy, reassure them of your affection and see if there is anything you can do to ease their feelings. Alternately, describe a period when you envied a relative.
Try your best to include your older child with the newborn to foster a link between the two of them. Ask them to assist you with wrapping the baby in a towel after bath time, reading the baby a tale while you fold laundry next to them, or entertaining them with music during a difficult diaper change. However, you should be cautious not to rely on your older child to act as a junior nanny because this could rapidly become a burden.
When your older child shows the newborn kindness or affection, compliment them. The more often they are referred to as “loved big brothers or sisters,” the more likely it is that they will begin to see themselves in this way and behave appropriately.
Advice on How to Deal with New Sibling Jealousy
Each child is unique and will eventually express their emotions in their own manner. That being said, creating a strong bond between your children will depend greatly on your patience and loving support. Here are a few of the most crucial points to remember as you work through handling new sibling enmity.
- Do your best to comprehend and accept your child’s bad emotions rather than attempting to “cure” them.
- Feel free to make jokes about the circumstance: “Yes, let’s pretend to construct a gorgeous dog house for the infant to reside in. Perhaps Uncle Noah can relocate there as well!”
- Don’t, though, act silly enough (or frequently enough) to belittle your child’s sentiments.
- Whenever they show kindness toward the infant, acknowledge it.
- Recognize that getting used to a new baby takes time. Consult your pediatrician, a counselor, or a wise parent friend who has older children if you need clarification about what to do.
- Encourage your child to recognize the benefits of having a sibling. For instance, they can impart knowledge to their sister while still maintaining their love for one another. Additionally, impart to your child the joy of the baby’s contentment (like when they smile or learn something new).
Meaningful articles you might like: How to Help Kids Learn Social and Emotional Skills at Home, The Influence of Sibling Relations on Bullying, Sibling Rivalries in Children and Teens