Welcoming a new baby into the family is a fun and exciting time, but a new routine can cause anxiety and uncertainty in older children.
Siblings need to know what to expect and have time to adjust.
Traveling nurse Angela Buehler, founder of the Atlanta-based company Baby Nurse To Go says the best way to aid older siblings in accepting a baby is to keep them informed.
"Explain to the older children that the baby is coming home. Assure them that the new baby will not mean major changes for them," Buehler said.
A little planning not only gives parents peace of mind, but it also helps siblings adapt more easily. Prior to your baby's arrival, decide how to help older children cope, how your baby will be fed, who will handle bath time and more to make the transition smoother.
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta recommends keeping routines regular as much as possible in the weeks prior to your baby's arrival. Room shifts to accommodate the baby, potty training of older children, or moving a child from a crib to a bed should either be done weeks before your due date or delayed until after the baby is home.
Toddlers and young children tend to need the most emotional support, Buehler said. As the family's attention turns to meeting the newborn's needs, older siblings can feel jealousy and react by acting out.
Buehler said it is helpful if children feel integrated into the whole experience of the baby's arrival. Include them in the baby's daily care and activities so that they don't feel left out.
"Asking an older child 'can you hand me a diaper or pacifier' will make them feel important and involved," Buehler said.
She also recommends setting up supervised cuddle or play time with the new addition so a bond between the siblings can form. If your child isn't interested, don't force it. Big brother will warm up to his new sibling in time.
Giving older kids undivided attention each day can help reduce resentment or anger about the new baby. Let your child choose the activity. Follow his lead. It helps to schedule this special time while the baby is asleep.
Teaching older children life skills, such as how to dress and feed themselves, gives them a sense of achievement, SuperNanny Jo Frost recently told Atlanta Parent magazine. The act of accomplishing tasks and being praised strengthens your child's morale during this challenging time.
According to the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, if older kids struggle in accepting the baby, encourage them to talk about their feelings. It's important not to bend the rules if your child acts out, but you need to understand what feelings are motivating the behavior.
Your child may need more one-on-one time with you, for example. If he or she expresses negative feelings, acknowledge those feelings. Make sure your child knows that although his or her feelings are important, those feelings have to be expressed appropriately.
All off these affirmations need to be relayed to others, so remind relatives and friends to pay attention to your older child during visits, and not just the baby.
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