Welcoming a new family member into your home can be exciting, but it can also bring about many changes.
Parents often spend a lot of energy getting ready for a new baby and once the baby arrives, much of the family’s attention is taken up with caring for the newborn.
As a result, existing children can find this transition quite challenging, and may find it difficult to accept their new sibling. It is common for children to feel confused, left out, jealous or even angry about a new addition to the family. However it is possible to prepare kids for the change to help make things easier.
Deciding when to tell a child about an upcoming family addition can be difficult.
Many mothers decide to tell their children about a new family member as soon as they discover they are pregnant, while others choose to wait until their bump is more noticeable, or they reach the second trimester.
Only you can decide the best time to tell your child, but when you do, keep in mind your child’s maturity level. Children do not need all the details, but may well be curious. Be guided by their questions. If they want to know more, they will ask.
If your child shows more interest, encourage this by:
- Reading books with your child about new babies (make sure they are age-appropriate);
- Visiting friends who have babies;
- Including children in discussions about possible baby names;
- Going to the doctor and letting your child hear the baby’s heartbeat/see the scans;
- Taking children to sibling birth classes, which let children learn how to hold babies, and discuss their feelings about this.
Letting children ask questions, and including them as much as possible during pregnancy, helps them to feel included and may foster positive feelings towards their new sibling.
Bringing the New Baby Home
Once your new baby is home, it’s important to try to help other children adjust to the change. Include them as much as possible so that they don’t feel left out. This may mean that they want to help with things (which results in it taking longer!). Try to be patient and allow them this opportunity to learn about the new baby.
If your child doesn’t seem particularly interested in the new baby, forcing them to be involved is likely to backfire. Just be patient and recognise that they are probably just adjusting in their own way, which can take time.
Try to maintain as much routine as possible for other children. This means that they still need to go to school, stick to bedtimes, etc. Consistency is important for children and by maintaining this you are sending clear messages to them that, although there is a new addition, their life is still stable and secure. Ensure that following school, you spend plenty of time with them and try to give them one-on-one attention as much as you can.
Checking in with how your existing children feel about the new addition is also important. Encourage children to express how they feel about their new family member and don’t be surprised if they do express some resentment or jealousy. Try to name these feelings with your children, identify what is causing these feelings, and problem solve together to help reduce these feelings. It may be that specific time needs to be put aside to spend just with them.
If you are expecting a new family member, or have recently had a child and are worried about the impact that this has had on your family, then please consider booking an appointment with me.
Author: Ashley Cooper, B Psych (Hons), M Psych (Clinical), MAPS.
Ashley Cooper is a registered psychologist with clinical psychology training, working with children, adolescents and adults. She is passionate about helping individuals to overcome their mental health issues and improve their quality of life.
To make an appointment with Ashley Cooper try Online Booking – Mt Gravatt or call (07) 3088 5422.