Help Older Children Welcome Baby Home
Welcoming a new baby?
Getting married, moving and having children are all new and wonderful life events. As with anything new and exciting in life, these transitions require change. Let’s face it, change can be hard! A friend of mine was thrilled to have her third child and told me her daughter was so excited to be a big sister. However when the baby came, her oldest started showing behaviors she had never exhibited before – tantrums, throwing things and demanding all of her parents time. What happened? She was so excited and now she wanted nothing to do with her little baby sister? They thought they had done everything right by telling their children about the new baby and sharing their excitement. Could they have done more at helping their holder children welcome baby home?
What can you do?
80% of children in the U.S have siblings. A 2012 study examined the behaviors of older children whom had younger brothers or sisters. It supported the idea that how parents introduce and conduct the transition of the new sibling can greatly impact the future relationship for these siblings. Talk about pressure!
There are some actions that can be done to help the older sibling ease into this change and welcome home baby. You can help them feel excited and loved, causing less behaviors and hurt feelings.
Try the following tips that can help welcome home baby in a way that will be less stressful for everyone in the home:
Involve the older children in the process.
The more your other children are involved with the baby from the start, the easier it will be for the siblings to welcome home baby. Bringing the child to see ultrasounds, allowing them to have a voice in decorating the baby’s room and feeling baby kick while in your belly. Reading books on what it’s like to have a brother or sister can really help the child to begin to see how the family will begin to change. It also allows them to feel like a big part of this transition. The level of involvement will also depend on the age of the child. Mayo Clinic recommends involvement as soon as the age of 2 but in varying degrees. Only you can decide what is right for helping your older children welcome baby home.
Recognize that being an older sibling is a big deal.
Babies create a reaction from anyone they meet. Many people are enthralled with their pudgy cheeks, tiny feet and their adorable baby gurgles. In the eyes of the sibling? The older siblings may feel unimportant and unseen making it hard to welcome baby home. Validate your child by exclaiming how incredibly important it is to be a big brother/big sister. Go over the top by telling them how lucky they are to be able to teach their sibling all the very cool things in life and how proud you are of them. Purchase a big sibling t-shirt and encourage them to help in anyway possible. The most important thing? Praise them for all their great deeds and tasks so they feel just as amazing as this little bundle of joy that has everyone else’s attention.
Give attention, attention and more attention.
What about me? A little baby requires absolutely everything to be done for them. It’s difficult to take a minute away from the baby unless of course, they are sleeping. The sibling who once had all your adoration and time, has now been resorted to second place for the time being. Talk to your child and teach them how much the baby needs right now but in time, the baby will be able to do much more on their own.
Try to steal time with your older when you can – ask for help with the baby if you need to. Read your oldest a story or have them do an activity that you can be involved in a stationary position. Most importantly, try to spend some one-on-one time with your oldest. Remember, it doesn’t have to quantity but quality. They need to know they are just as loved and special as the little one.
What happens next?
This is a tough time for parents. A routine will start forming and life does get easier. Remember to breathe and lean on those around you for help. It’s great to have friends or family help out to give you that much needed time for yourself and your marriage. Parenting is a difficult job and at times can be extremely overwhelming. It’s okay to say you need help. My amazing colleagues at Family Therapy Associates would be happy to help you navigate through this time of your life. You might find it helpful to read more about parenting in our other blogs.
Do you have more than one child? How did your older child welcome baby home?