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Written by: Katya on 18/08/17
In the world of parenting, there are some absolutes. One of those absolutes is that new babies bring a number of transitions, few of which can really be predictable. When it’s time to welcome a younger sibling, the transitions can often impact your child more than they impact you as parents.
It’s a wonderful time that can really empower and encourage your older child if steps are taken to really include them in the process of caring for the new baby. Toddlers have a lot of skills to employ that can really help parents as they address all of the needs of a newborn. But they will need to be coached on life with the baby and how to handle potentially difficult emotions resulting from the changes they will experience. What can mum and dad do to ease the passage from only child to older sibling? A number of things.
Encourage older children to talk to their new sibling.
Babies need to have as much exposure to communication as possible. It promotes a number of cognitive developments that contribute later to their own efforts to communicate. Older kids who perhaps know songs or stories by heart can get a tremendous boost in confidence, knowing that they are actually helping their new sibling learn and grow by sharing what they know. Talk with older siblings about the stories and songs they know, and how you began sharing those with them when they were very small, too.
The connections that older kids can make are sometimes surprising. It is a pretty abstract concept to think about all of the abilities newborns do not yet have, that can be learned by interacting with older kids. Help your child understand how important they are, and encourage these interactions. Teach them new songs that they can then turn around and “teach the baby.” Point out milestones to them such as baby’s first sounds and what they mean, and developments that will come, eventually making their efforts to communicate more sophisticated. The more your child knows about what to expect, the more excited they will be by what they are witnessing.
Be prepared for the questions… lots of them.
Children love to ask questions, and that’s something parents learn to expect. But there are obvious questions that may take more delicate handling, such as a difference in body parts, or how the baby came into the world. Give these questions their due and address them thoughtfully – your older child is building a frame of reference for how he or she will understand the world in these conversations.
As you anticipate the big day, check out websites that offer parenting advice on how to answer your child’s questions with age-appropriate information. It is only natural that they will be curious about each stage of change – from Mum’s changing appearance to the baby’s debut. Everything they know will soon change, and information can make changes less scary or frustrating.
Don’t forget to make special time just for them.
It’s not easy having to share the spotlight of Mum’s and Dad’s attention. As the baby begins to demand the lion’s share of time and energy for a while, big brother or big sister may get a case of jealousy. Don’t reprimand them for feeling the way they do – demonstrate understanding and compassion for the feelings they are experiencing. Acknowledge them as something natural, but not insurmountable.
Some kids latch on to newborns and fall in love with them, relishing the interactions and reactions they get from their new brother or sister. Other kids don’t start out with warm fuzzy feelings. If your efforts to include the older sibling in caring for the baby’s needs have only produced unpleasant reactions, it is beneficial to set aside special times on a regular basis to do something one-on-one. Taking turns going out with your older child to do something fun like see a kid’s movie or play at the playground can reassure your child that they, too, are important, special, and still loved.
Say encouraging things to your child and about your child.
Even if there have been difficulties helping your family adjust to life with a newborn, don’t forget to brag on your older kids for times in which they have been helpful. A tip for happy parenting is to downplay the frustrations and highlight what delights you. Be encouraging and highlight positive interactions in your conversation with your child and with others to help your child’s attitudes move in a positive direction. Talking someone up gives them the opportunity to live up to a reputation, and toddlers are keenly aware of how good it feels to be praised. So be generous with it, and you stand a pretty good chance of having helpful, sweet actions repeated.
Kids, in general, can have a hard time focusing on their blessings. One of the jobs we have as parents is to coach our children toward an attitude of gratitude. It’s not easy having a newborn in the house, even if you’re super fond of them. They disrupt sleep, spit up everywhere, and they seem to need constant changing and feeding. It’s a lot for a toddler to tolerate if they have been used to being the sole mess-maker in the house for a while.
Parenting advice that can help foster this attitude in your other children includes:
It doesn’t hurt to plan ahead for special outings so they have a number of things to look forward to – incorporate friends and family so they have a variety of people to spend time with and enjoy. Keep this idea of gratitude in front of them at all times, and it will help them cope with the other emotions they are experiencing.
To recap: encourage interaction with the baby, answer their questions, spend time with them one-on-one, being encouraging and promote an attitude of gratitude. Beyond all this, the most important tip for happy parenting is to make sure each of your children receives ample expressions of warmth and appreciation. Validate your child by expressing their intrinsic value, what makes them unique, why you love them so much, and what you love to see them doing. Demonstrate interest in their interests, concern for their concerns, and give them the sense of being understood that can help any negative feelings seem less overwhelming.
What other ways can older children have an easier transition to life with a new baby?
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