Supporting adjustment BEFORE the new baby arrives
Adjusting to the birth of a sibling is a challenge most children experience at some point. In this article we will cover 5 tips for things you can consider trying BEFORE the baby is born, to help your child adjust (Click Here) for Tips AFTER the baby is born
"Love and the idea that you don’t have to 'share it' is a hard concept to understand"
First, let’s address the most important component to all the Tips: Love!
Love, and the idea that you don’t have to “share it,” is a hard concept to understand. Kids are used to the idea that sharing means you get less of something or you don’t have as much as you want. They also can see that their parents only have two hands and two feet. Kids naturally get worried that a new baby will mean that they will get less love from their parents. Kids need help from a parent to learn that love is something different and special, they get all your heart and your love doesn’t go away no matter who enters the family or what behaviors they do. Kids may need help to understand that your love for them is unconditional and does not have to be shared.
An example of language to consider using with a younger child is “Love is not like a cake, you don’t have to share a slice of it with your sibling. You get to enjoy it all and keep it all. Your love is JUST for you”. (Consider using their name to define it, e.g. “Sally, your love is just for you”)
Top 5 tips for helping your child adjust BEFORE the new baby is born
1. Prepare Your Child in Advance:
Consider letting the sibling shop with you for baby items or visiting other friends who have newborns. Don’t be afraid to explain the process to them, even if they are really young. Consider including statements to prepare them for the challenges and be realistic in your expectations. For example, "there will be a new baby and things will be very different. You may hear the baby cry and it will need lots of help to grow up big like you”. Part of preparing your child for a sibling is also reminding them of your love. For example, “a new baby doesn’t change my love for you and how important and special you are and always will be to me”.
2. Read Children's Books:
Consider buying or renting some books about a becoming a sibling and what to expect. This can be useful both before and after the baby is born as you will likely have continued conversations about the transition, especially during the first year. Having books about the topic around the house may also help your child to feel more safe to express their feelings about the adjustment process and ask questions.
3. Get a Practice Baby-Doll:
This might sound a little strange to some people, but consider getting a toy baby for your child to play being a caregiver too. Research shows that children learn through play, and that children often like to mimic the parents behaviors with their toys. Your child might like to act out carrying around the baby, bottle feeding, swaddling, etc. Having their own toy baby can additionally helpful since they may not be old enough to do these things like holding the real baby safely and it allows them to feel like they are part of this new family transition.
Consider showing the older child their own baby pictures and talking about when they were a baby. Your older child won’t remember their birth, but it helps them to know they also experienced what the new baby will have and may help them feel special and important in the family.
5. Keep Consistent Routines:
Consider keeping as much of the same routines as possible for the older child. If you are aware that there are going to be big changes after the baby, like the sibling moving from a crib to a bed or starting potty training, try to do them before the baby arrives so that the older child can focus on adjusting to 1 major new change (the baby), and not multiple changes at the same time.
Helping your child feel loved, prepared, and important may improve their adjustment even BEFORE a new baby enters the family.
(Click here) for adjustment tips AFTER the baby is born
For more simple parenting tips, check out the Myers Family Therapy parenting blog!
Laura Myers, LMFT #89833
Myers Family Therapy