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12 Tips For Helping Your Firstborn Adjust To A New Baby

Whether your older child is 2 or 9, their nose can get a bit out of joint when a new sibling comes on the scene. It can be difficult for everyone including you to adjust to the new family dynamic but what do you do if you get a reaction you really weren’t expecting from one of your older children?

It can take time for your older child to accept the new situation and you may experience bouts of acting out or regression where your child starts to act like a baby. This is perfectly normal and is their way of making sense of it.

Although you can’t prevent every bit of poor behaviour, there are steps you can take to make the transition easier on your older child:

1. Give Them Information

It is important that your child knows what to expect to make the transition easier. Take every opportunity you can to tell them what is going to happen. This can begin right when you tell them baby is on the way. Begin by explaining that mom will get a big tummy, show them ultrasound pictures. Tell them about going to hospital to have baby and that baby will cry sometimes. The more you can prepare them with information, the less likely they are to exhibit difficult behaviour.

2. Get Them Involved

There are so many ways you can get your older children involved in the preparations before baby arrives. They can help you decorate a nursery, choose baby’s outfit for coming home, help you pack your bag for hospital etc. After baby arrives they can be involved in the day to day of looking after baby like nappy changing, making bottles, food prep if they are old enough.

3. Ask Them For Help

Children feel very important and valued if we ask them for help or advice. It makes them feel like what they are saying/doing really matters to us. It can be as simple as them helping to choose baby’s clothes for the day, fetching nappies for us or helping us to “babysit”. It’s about making them feel like we couldn’t manage without them, like they are vital to our job of minding baby.

4. Story Time

For a slightly older (possibly school going) child, story-telling can be a great way for them to bond with their new sibling. They can be the one to read the story before bed and it will become something they share. This can also work for young children who know their favourite story by heart and can “read” it to them.

5. Talk About Their Role

It is so important that children know what to expect and what is expected of them ahead of time. They are about to fulfil a new role and a great way to get them comfortable with that is to talk to them about the role of a big brother/sister. You can normalise it even more by talking about your own childhood and life with siblings and times you or an older sibling demonstrated good behaviour towards the new sibling.

6. Talk about their feelings

The worst thing we as parents can do is to dismiss a child’s feelings. Although you may not always agree with their behaviour, it is important to respect how they feel and allow them to do whatever they need to in order to make sense of their situation (within reason obviously).

7. Don’t Let It Be All About Baby

Having a new baby in the house is exciting but don’t forget to be excited about the achievements of your other children. The last thing we want is for our other children to feel forgotten or unloved just because a new baby has arrived. This is vital if we want to avoid sibling rivalry and potential issues that can emerge from that.

8. Stay Calm

It’s a big adjustment for everyone and you should allow for a bedding in period. It can be frustrating when you are trying to get baby to sleep and the older children are making too much noise or when you are trying to get baby dressed and your older child insists on “helping”. The key here is to develop a strategy that will keep you calm when you feel under pressure or feel like you will get annoyed with the older child. Count to ten or leave the room for a couple of minutes, anything that will allow the frustration to pass.

9. Acknowledge Good Behaviour

It is important to stay calm in the face of negative behaviour but it is equally important to ensure that good behaviour is acknowledged as it would have been before the baby arrived. Again, without this, a child can feel pushed aside or feel like what they are doing is no longer important to you.

10. Don’t Compare Your Children

This can be hard to avoid especially when it comes to hitting milestones like teething, crawling, walking and talking but it is important to remember that even as they get older, they are very different people with different personalities who will grow and develop in different ways and at different rates. As your children grow, they will achieve different things, excel in different ways at school and that is a good thing. The world would be a very boring place if we were all the same!

11. Don’t Add More Big Changes At The Same Time

It is sometimes unavoidable but where possible, try not to introduce any other big changes for your older children on top of bringing home a new baby. It can sometimes be necessary to move them into a new room or start toilet training but we are trying to avoid them connecting a big challenge with the arrival of a new baby and therefore seeing it as a negative experience.

12. Have Baby Bring A Gift For Older Kids

I think this is probably the best piece of advice. When baby comes home from hospital have a gift they can give to their older siblings. This will make it a positive experience for them and as such they will relate to the new baby in a more positive way. It can be something small but try to make it something you know they will like to show that baby knows his/her big brother/sister well already. My older kids love writing stories so when my youngest arrived recently, she brought them each a new notebook and pen. They felt she must have known they like writing so there was a bond built between them instantly.

Got another tip to add? Let us know in the comments section!


About the Author

Jenny Sherlock is a working mom of three children, aged 9, 5 and the youngest arrived in January this year. She is a civil servant and a freelance writer. She enjoys art, reading, music and good food. She gives an honest account of the rollercoaster that is parenting, warts and all! Check out her blog seriouslymammy.wordpress.com for more!

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