This topic is one of my favorite opportunities for laughing at myself. My first mistake was asking my older two children to meet our new baby at the hospital. Not only did they not want to go, they begged their father either to send back the baby or to leave us both at the hospital. Right away, I learned the value of letting the older siblings have their own feelings rather than forcing mine upon them. It was either that or knowing that they would act out in ways I’d rather not imagine. After all, what was in it for them? They now had to share a room, as well as the time and attention of their tired and cranky parents.
My challenge was to convince them that while having a new sister was non-negotiable, they could have some adventure along the way. They arranged and decorated their new room in an outlandish manner, complete with “BABY KEEP OUT” signs and booby traps, since baby couldn’t read. Their father logged in overtime on surprise excursions that Mom would never have approved of and that Baby would never enjoy. They acquired extra paid jobs around the house. They got special individual time with both of us, and we still managed to keep up with their busy lives. Luckily, their sister was irresistible and won them over in no time.
Bringing home a new baby fills a house with joy and wonder. It can also bring worry and stress to older siblings who feel their world has just been turned upside down. A sense of jealousy, resentment, and even a little anger is normal. Siblings fear there won’t be enough love, or time to go around.
As parents, there are things we can say and do to help ease the transition.
Talk about what WON’T change once the new baby arrives and emphasis all the things that will be the same. This includes:
- Keeping a similar routine – Talk to your kids about their favorite parts of the day, and make sure you keep those consistent.
- Avoiding making big changes like toilet training, graduating from the crib, or changing rooms. Work through these transitions a few months before baby arrives, or a few months after.
- Keeping life predictable - Remember, predictability brings a sense of security that is really important to children, so keep things predictable and consistent.
Talk about the new “big sibling role”. Be sure your conversations are realistic. Getting your kids excited about the things the baby can’t do until he/she is four will create false hopes.
Involve older siblings in making meaningful decisions, before and after the baby arrives and let them help with the new baby. Make sure that one-on-one time is still spent with each child. Make it a point to have individual conversations and experiences with each of your children. This will help them feel special and loved and let them know that the new baby has not taken their spot in the family.
A fun way to help older siblings make the new baby transition: we give each of our children a disposable camera and ask them to be the photographers. They feel important and have fun taking pictures at the hospital and once we get home. It is so fun to get the pictures developed. Some of our very best photos have come from our kids.
What’s worked the best for your family??
Things are about to change in your home and on some level, everyone knows it. Attention will need to be divided. More tasks demands are imminent and you’re about to be sleep deprived, at least for a little while.
What can you do to make the transition peaceful and calm?
- Spend time with your other children before the delivery. When the baby arrives you’ll be busy feeding and diapering round the clock, so take the time now to be present and mindful with your children. Fill them up with your love.
- Talk with your children about what to expect. Tell them how big the baby will be, what he’ll do most of the time and how they can touch him while being safe and careful.
- Talk with your children about how they can help out. Your children will want to be with you and the baby, so make a list of tasks, hang it on the fridge and get ready to include your kids not shut them out.
- Most importantly, get your support team ready. Research shows that sleep deprivation and lack of maternal support can lead to post-partum depression. So ask for home-cooked meals to fill your freezer before baby arrives. Make sure that the car-pool schedule is clear, ask a family member to come over and help with your older kids daily and say YES! to help before and after the birth.
With some organization and planning, bringing baby home can be such a joy. Don’t wait ‘til the last minute, start planning now. Happy Baby to You!
This post reflects Dr Kenney’s “The Family Coach Method” used in practice for a number of years, and released for publication just this past September. The Family Coach Method is ‘rug-level,’ friendly and centered on the concept of families as a winning team – with dozens of age-appropriate sample conversations and problem solving scenarios to guide a family to the desired place of mutual respect, shared values and strengths. The goal is to help children to develop the life skills, judgment and independence that can help them navigate the challenges of an increasingly complex world. The Family Coach Method is also being taught as an Educational Series where parents can join with other moms and dads in live calls with Dr Kenney.