Worried about how your child will react to being a new brother or sister? Tips for smoothing the transition.
How a child adapts to a new baby depends a lot on age and their individual personality. While an older child may be excited about his new “big brother” status and adapt well, a toddler may have a harder time sharing your attention with a new baby. And it’s not unusual for kids to swing from between being really excited to being worried about the prospect of sharing toys and affection with someone new. Here are some pointers for helping your child make the transition from only child to big brother or sister:
Ahead of time:
Involve. Once you start to show, tell your child what’s happening. Invite your child to talk to your belly, to gently pat the baby, and feel the kicks.
Meet some babies. Help your child form a realistic idea of what newborns are like by visiting others with new babies. Talk to you child about how “we” are with a baby– washing hands first, being gentle, not coughing in baby’s face and so on. If no babies are available watch online videos of newborns (especially the crying part.)
Talk about how when your child was a baby and bring out any baby journals, pictures and videos. Let your child pick his favorites for his own album.
Crib transition. If your new baby will be moving into your kid’s crib, start the move well before your due date. Invite your child to “help” set up the “big” bed. Let her sleep in it as a reward for “special” naps and cuddles and story times at first and your child may even ask to move to the special new bed! If not, assure him he’s big enough and old enough and make the transition decisively (“this is where you sleep now because you’re a big boy!” so if he blames anyone for evicting him from his bed it’s you and not the baby.
After baby arrives:
Gifts. Ask for help in opening baby gifts, stoke up on small “big brother” gifts, and get him to help with a special event to celebrate his new status.
Big-kid time. Take some time every day, even if it’s just a few minutes, to give your older child your full attention. Ask him how he’s feeling, what his favorite part of the day was, if there’s anything he wants to talk about.
Helping out. Invite him to share simple tasks as “Mommy’s best helper.” Praise him openly in front of others when they talk about the baby so he knows he’s important to you.
Let him express feelings. Meltdowns, sadness, jealousy, or reverting back to babyish behavior are ways kids express new-baby worries. Let him know it’s okay to have these feelings (though expressing them by hitting, biting, throwing things is not okay, of course.) Validate any sadness or frustration and reassure him. (“I know you’re mad about the new baby sometimes, and that now Mommy doesn’t have as much time to play with you. But know I love you very much and I’m so proud that you’re big enough to play by yourself while I feed the baby.”)