How to Ease the Adjustment to a New Baby Sibling
There is no doubt that it will take time for siblings to adjust to the addition of a new baby. Big brothers and sisters may experience setbacks both in their emotional maturity and behavior when a newborn arrives. They may feel like there is not enough love to go around, or that their parents will no longer have time for them. Babies do deplete the energy of parents who are at the mercy of their feeding and sleeping requirements. So in some ways, these fears can become a reality for toddlers who feel displaced, at least temporarily. There are some things parents can do, however, to make this adjustment period easier on older brothers and sisters. In addition to reading big brother and big sister books, follow these tips that will provide just the right reassurance that older siblings need during this transitional period.
- Give the older sibling some choices when decorating the nursery. Let them pick out some items, like the bedding or some stuffed animals, so that they feel like they are an integral part of the planning. Bite your tongue if the toddler chooses something that does not match your theme or color scheme. It's more important that the sibling feels like his or her opinion counts.
- Do not forgo bedtime stories and other important nightly routines. After the sun sets, everything seems to get more difficult when juggling the needs of a newborn alongside older siblings. It may not be possible for the family to do everything exactly as they had before the new baby arrived. For instance, sitting down at the dinner table all at once may be tough. But no matter how exhausted you feel, make sure to take the extra few minutes to spend some one-on-one time with the child to snuggle up and read some books about new baby siblings.
- Assign some baby-related responsibilities to the siblings. Kids like to feel like they are contributing to the household. Giving them chores makes them feel like they are needed, valued, and an integral part of the family unit. If the sibling is just a toddler, the task can be something simple like carrying the baby's soiled clothing to the washing machine. Older siblings can handle more difficult tasks, like perhaps changing a diaper or preparing a bottle.
- Break some rules and spoil big brother or big sister from time to time. Maintaining a normal schedule can be difficult during the first few weeks (or, more likely, months) after a new baby arrives. So consider taking advantage of this crazy time by doing things a little differently. If the baby is sleeping, take the siblings out for ice cream, even if dinner time is right around the corner. Buy your little ones some treats or small toys for no particular reason at all. Allow little ones to stay up a bit past their bedtime if it means squeezing in a few more precious minutes alone with them. All of these little things will go a long way in reminding your older children that they are loved as much as ever before.
- Have patience with toddlers who regress temporarily.It is not uncommon for siblings to revert to old habits when a newborn baby arrives. Temper tantrums, thumb-sucking, whiny voices, and other irritating behaviors may rear their ugly head. This can be especially frustrating for parents who are sleep-deprived while juggling more balls than ever before. Just remember that this phase will pass quickly and try not to overreact.
- Pull out the big sibling's baby album and talk about how your life changed when your special firstborn arrived.Share all the precious baby pictures and spend some time talking about what big brother or big sister was like as a newborn. Talk about nighttime disruptions, diaper fiascos, crying fits, and tender moments. All of these stories will help an older toddler understand that a new baby's demanding behavior is temporary. And, more importantly, that you provided all the same love and attention to the big sibling as the new baby is receiving now.
- Carve out some alone time with the big sibling every single day.Before the baby arrived, big brother or big sister was accustomed to being the center of the universe. With the arrival of a newborn, toddlers may feel neglected. And the truth is, their needs are probably secondary to the demands of the baby, as least temporarily. When a baby needs to be fed, has a dirty diaper, or is crying inconsolably, parents will almost always tend to those demands first. That is just the reality. However, it is a good idea to make an effort to spend some one-on-one time with the older sibling, even if for only a few minutes, every day. When the baby is sleeping, it may be tempting to do the dishes, toss in a load of laundry, and get some other things done around the house. Just make sure to prioritize time with the child reading a book, playing with toys, making a craft, or even just watching a television show.