Our daughter Madi has been the center of my husband’s and my life since the day she was born. Our family, friends and nanny have commented about the significant adjustment that Madi will have once our baby boy arrives.
I asked a friend and colleague Dr. Sarah Nunes, who is a mother of 4 and registered psychologist for tips for adjusting to the new addition to our family.
Here are her tips below:
My husband and I had our four children each 18 months apart. This presented unique challenges with the addition of each subsequent child into our family. However, no matter what the age gap of your children, incorporating another child into the family affords the opportunity to teach the important lessons of responsibility and self-efficacy to the older child/children.
Children need to learn that they can and should contribute to the family’s functioning. Even more importantly, they need to learn that when there is someone in the family with greater needs than their own (i.e., the new baby) they need to help out.
- Help mommy or daddy by retrieving items in the care of the baby (i.e., diapers, wipes, soother, blankie, etc.)
- Help soothe the baby when the parent can’t do so (e.g., lay in the play gym with the baby when s/he is fussing, hold the soother in the baby’s mouth, snuggle the baby)
- Help in the care of the baby during everyday activities (e.g., help dry the baby off after the bath, shake the baby’s bottle to mix the formula and water, etc.)
This is essentially a person’s belief in his or her ability to complete a task. Children will delight in discovering that they can contribute to the family by completing tasks related to the new baby.
- Have the older child help to decide which tasks s/he would like to participate in with regard to helping with the new baby (e.g., keeping the diaper basket in the living room stocked, picking out the baby’s clothes, letting mom or dad know when the baby is starting to fuss, etc.)
- Make the aforementioned tasks sufficiently challenging. Don’t underestimate what your child can do, even if s/he is only 16, 17 or 18 months old when the new baby arrives.
Lastly, address outstanding behaviours such as jealousy and aggression with love and reassurance, not treats and “stuff”.
- Give hugs, kisses and reassurance when the older child might feel left out.
- Give the consistent message that it is not okay to hurt or hit the new baby.
- Invite the older child to sit with mom or dad while the baby feeds.
- Read to the older child while holding the new baby.
- Prepare the older child for the baby’s arrival by reading children’s books on the topic. As well, explain that mommy and daddy will need the older child/children’s help with the new baby and how exciting this will be.
In essence, the aim is to teach the child/children to recognize the need for self-sacrifice and a sense of responsibility for those who are in greater need (particularly those in one’s family), and simultaneously establishing a belief in their ability to fulfill those responsibilities.
This post was written by Dr. Sarah Nunes. Dr. Sarah Nunes is a Registered Psychologist in Halifax, Nova Scotia and a mom of 4.