Uh-oh, is your family set to grow? It is one of the most exciting things in the world, but it also means a lot of change. This kind of change can be hard for existing family members, especially children. Whether they are very young, or slightly older, there will be a lot of adjustments to make when a new sibling arrives.
Don’t be surprised if the initial excitement that your little one had about meeting their new sibling disappears quickly after the arrival. Your children will be told by everyone how exciting it is to get a new sibling, but when the reality hits home that they will have to share Mummy and Daddy with a new baby, it doesn’t seem so exciting after all.
No matter how well you prepare your first-born for the arrival of their younger sibling, there will still be an element of jealousy and rivalry. You might even get suggestions for the new arrival to live in the backyard, shut away in a closet, or even at Nana’s house.
The important thing is to handle their suggestions in the right way. Otherwise, the siblings could end up as instant foes, instead of eventual friends.
What To Expect and How To Handle It…
Many children under the age of two seem oblivious to the fact that there is a new baby around the house. It may not be until the new baby gets older and starts trying to interact that your two-year-old will visibly react. Because they cannot verbalise their feelings at this young age, your first born may grieve silently for the way things used to be.
What To Do: Enjoy the calm if you have it. Make time for one on one interactions with your toddler. And make sure that you smile every time that you see them, even if you are exhausted. Offer plenty of cuddles when they are needed!
Two to Three Years Old
Expect whining, lots and lots of whining. There is also the potential for being clingy, weepy, regressing to babyish behaviours, night waking, and wanting to sleep in your bed. Toddlers can be conflicted about a new baby. On the one hand, they still want to be treated like a baby themselves, but on the other they are fiercely independent. It will take some trial and error for them to strike that balancing act and deal with the jealousy of the new baby receiving a lot of attention.
What To Do: Let them play baby if they want to. Cradle them in your arms and let them babble ‘goo goo ga ga’, they will realise it is far more interesting to be a toddler again. Start the transition period well before the new baby arrives. Bedtime routines will no doubt need to be more efficient when the baby comes, so begin to condense them beforehand. Also, get your toddler used to other people being part of their routine, so that they are not fully reliant on Mum.
Four to Six Years Old
By this age, your children will have a greater understanding and comprehension of what is happening. They will have a greater ability to take turns, or wait for a snack. They are also beginning to form their own life with kindy or school, friends, after school activities, and independent play. That means that they are less reliant on you. However, if they don’t feel they are getting the attention they need from you, then they will rebel.
What To Do: One on one time is the best way to combat a sense of abandonment. Also, if the new baby does something to upset or irritate them, then make sure you are there to support them. Replace a torn book, listen to their tale of woe and talk through issues together.
Seven To Eight Years Old
By this age your child is less likely to express their feelings verbally, so it is important to look for signs of jealousy, or if they are having a hard time processing the change. They may be obnoxious or mouthy instead of coming out and talking about their feelings.
What To Do: Employ the power of bedtime. When you are lying in bed together after a long day, there is a natural want to talk about things that might not come up otherwise. Reassure them that you love them and try to discuss any feelings of jealousy, or being left out. Include your child in your baby’s development by offering small tasks and responsibilities. But don’t expect them to become a junior babysitter, as they could quickly become resentful.
Regardless of the age of your child, it is important to help them understand and process any negative emotions. Try not to minimise their feelings, know that it is an ongoing adjustment process for the whole family. Acknowledge the love and care between all of your family members. You are all in it for the long haul!