A new baby in the family is such an exciting time. However, there are many changes and adjustments to be made. As adults we are able to adapt to the changes and more importantly understand them, but young children often need extra support and understanding at this time.
Before baby arrives
Prepare your child before baby’s arrival. Talk to your child about the changes. If they are around 2 or 3 years old this can be as simple as talking about being a big brother or sister, explaining what that means, you can use friends or family with multiple children as examples. Resources such as books can be great. Enjoy these with your child to further their understanding. Older children will understand more, especially around the time when baby will arrive. If they will be going to stay with relatives while you are in hospital let them know what will happen over that time.
Nine months can feel a very long time to a small child. Most expectant mums are able to carry on life as normal throughout their pregnancy, so this should be the same for your child. You don’t have to spend all your time talking about the new baby in order to prepare them. Doing this may have an adverse effect. They may become a little despondent with regards to the baby, instead of sharing the excitement. Closer to baby’s arrival can be an exciting time to get your child involved with getting the nursery ready.
Here are some of our suggestions to help your child adjust
- Meeting baby – if possible try to make sure you are not holding the new baby when he/she arrives. They may be looking for a cuddle and possibly some comfort. This allows them to do that before being introduced to their new sibling.
- Children love to help, there is a lot they can do. Get them involved in changing nappies, getting things for you, giving baby a blanket, or a toy.
- Feeding – If you have an older child, they may be able to help with bottle feeding. If you are breast feeding, they will almost certainly be curious. Allow them to sit with you when feeding, don’t push them away if they want to do this. If your child struggles to sit quietly with you try to engage them in a quiet activity while you feed.
- Make time – Think of all the one to one time your child will have had with you that they are now having to share. If possible, make special time for them. Something as small as doing a jigsaw with them or reading a book can be very important. Or leave someone else in charge of baby and head to the park.
- Create new routines early on. Your older child will be used to their own routine and inevitably these routines may change. Establishing new daytime and bedtime routine that works for your child as well baby will go a long way in making them feel happy and secure and will prevent sleep patterns being affected.
- Be realistic about what your child can cope with as life changes around them. However, you also have to remain in control. Allowing a toddler to take control as you feel guilty about the change will lead to more upset. Toddlers and young children need structure and guidance and this will help them feel secure within the changes.