Having a new baby is exciting, but it can also be a time of tremendous upheaval for the older siblings. At first, your older daughter may be super psyched to have a baby in the house to hold and to feed — after all, it's a real-life game of house! But many kids will soon face the harsh reality that mom or dad is more tired, more stressed and less available than before the little bundle's arrival. The good news is that life with a new baby gets easier from the moment they're born — the little tyrant's routine of crying, pooping and eating doesn't rule the house forever. Meanwhile, there are some things you can do to ease the adjustment your older kids experience from having a new sibling. Read on for some tips:
1. Involve them in the prepping process. Whether it be helping to pick out colors for the nursery or going through the closet to give the baby their old toys or clothes, your kids will be less resentful of the new baby if they were involved in the new baby preparations from the start. Be sure to tell them about the new baby growing in your tummy well in advance of its arrival to give them time to get used to the idea. Let them feel the baby kick so they can get to know the baby even before it arrives and read plenty of books about new babies and siblings.
2. Listen to their worries. For a younger child who is not aware of his feelings, bring it up while you're giving him a bath or giving him dinner and listen to what he is concerned about, before or after the baby comes. Reassure him that even though there are times when it may feel like he's pushed aside, you care about him just as much as before. Tell him your heart will get bigger to accommodate loving both him and the new baby, not that the new baby is going to take away your love from him. If your child is not particularly verbal, role-playing during a game of pretend may be helpful in teasing out his concerns.
3. Be sure to set aside special time for them. Once the new baby comes, it can be easy to take an older child's feelings for granted, especially if he's a 3-year-old screaming for attention. Set aside special time for just you and your older child while your baby is napping (which he'll hopefully do a lot of those first couple months) to share something together — take him on a special outing or spend time at home cooking together, playing together or even folding laundry together.
4. All you need is love. An older sibling may regress in some of his milestones when a new baby is born (forgetting to use the potty or drinking from a bottle again). Instead of chastising or punishing, reassure his again and again that you still love him and praise him for doing something right. Be specific in your praise — "You made it to the toilet and washed your hands all by yourself — what a big boy!" Your older child will need plenty of kisses and cuddles too, so be generous.
5. Cut yourself some slack. Having a new baby is hard on everyone in the family, but the major upheaval will pass and life with two (or three or four!) will settle into a routine. When it does, I highly recommend reading "Siblings Without Rivalry" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish to help you grow your kids' relationship into a close and special one for years to come.