Adding a new baby to the family is tricky enough the first time around. The challenges the second time around are different, but no less tricky. One of the bigger challenges is the adjustment for an older sibling.
Here are some tips for making the transition a bit smoother:
Before the baby comes
Talk about the changes that are coming – You don’t want to alarm your child by talking about difficulties, but you also don’t want to sugarcoat it and give the child unrealistic expectations. Aim for a balance.
Have reasonable expectations – I’m talking about your expectations for your child. Your child might not be as excited about the new baby as you hope. And that’s okay. Your child might not want to be the helper once the baby is there. And that’s okay.
Acknowledge that it might be hard – Acknowledge it to yourself, to your partner, and to your older children. It might be hard, but it will be okay.
After the baby comes
Talk about feelings with your child – Allow them to express all emotions, positive or negative, without judgement. Validate their emotions, and if they need to talk through them, be willing to do that for them.
Adjust expectations – even if you think you had realistic expectations before the baby is born, the odds are good that things won’t go exactly as you think. Make necessary adjustments.
Prioritize the older sibling at times – your older child still needs love and attention, and taking the time to have 1:1 focused time with your older child can lessen their worries about being displaced.
Don’t try to force a relationship – It’s okay if your older child doesn’t feel love and connection to the baby immediately. Many children don’t, but that can come later. Allow their relationship to develop at their own pace. Don’t try to make it happen, and instead create an environment free of competition and with opportunities for them to connect.
Sibling adjustment isn’t a one time event, either. There are tricky times surrounding the birth of the baby, but also tricky times to navigate later. A common one is when the new baby gets mobile and starts getting into the older child’s toys. Another when the older child needs to take on chores and responsibilities the younger one is not yet expected to.
I hope these tips help you have a smoother transition in your family!