4 Ways to Help Older Siblings Adjust to a New Baby

babydoll
Image via Katie Hurley

Nothing shakes up a family like the arrival of a new baby! Sleep becomes elusive, tired parents lose their patience, and jealous older siblings like to make their feelings known. Bringing home a new baby can cause some upheaval, that's for sure.

While babies are cute, cuddly, and sweet, they are also loud, unpredictable, and time consuming. It's a lot of change all at once.

Older siblings are likely to display regressed behavior during this transition, which can be frustrating for parents. Bedwetting, baby talk, and an increase in temper tantrums are all to be expected.

4 Ways to Help Big Siblings Adjust

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Image via Flickr/ roseannadana

Be patient

No matter how much you prepared your child for the arrival of the new baby, nothing compares to the actual arrival. Older siblings can't conceptualize what it will really feel like to have that new little bundle of joy around. And with everyone telling them how great it will be, they are in for a bit of a shock when the baby actually comes home.

Be patient with your older children. It's important to remember that their lives are directly affected by the arrival of the new baby. While it's fun and exciting some of the time, it's also stressful. Chances are they feel like they're getting less time with mom and dad and feeling left out. Try not to react to regressed behaviors in frustration. Regressed behavior is often a child's way of saying, “I need help.”

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Image via Flickr/ ginsnob

Empathize

Is the new baby keeping you up all night? Are you exhausted and covered in spit up? Have you remembered to eat today? No? So you definitely can understand how a new arrival isn't necessarily a bundle of happiness every second of every day.

Empathize with your child. Ask your child what's hard about having the new baby around. Talk about what's hard for you. Maybe even throw in a few jokes. Kids need to feel heard and understood. When you take the time to acknowledge their feelings and listen with understanding, you show them that their feelings matter.

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Image via Flickr/ superhua

Get them involved

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Babies require a lot of attention, and older kids often feel left behind. Conversations and playtime are interrupted in favor of diaper changes and feedings, and chances are the nighttime routine even shifts a bit.

Instead of running off to attend to the baby each time the baby needs help, consider getting your older child involved. Toddlers and preschoolers often respond well to having their own baby-changing station nearby to mimic mom, but they can also help restock diapers, get wipes, and distract the baby with a toy while mom does the dirty work.

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Find little ways to put your older child in a helping role, and suddenly, that older child won't feel so left behind.

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Image via iStock

Schedule one-on-one time

Even though your big kid probably has friends, classes, school, and toys galore, she still needs you. One-on-one time with each parent provides crucial parent-child bonding opportunities, and it's important to make time for it.

Let the dishes sit in the sink and try to stop worrying about the laundry and cleaning. Use those precious naps to engage in art, play, or other relaxing activities with your child. You might even want to create a “special-time box” full of fun little toys and activities that only get pulled out during your one-on-one time.

Everybody needs a little extra love and attention to ease the transition when the new baby arrives.

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How has your older child adjusted to the new arrival?

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4 Ways to Help Older Siblings Adjust to a New Baby

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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