Addition of New Baby – Roadmap Towards Smooth Transition
Bringing a new baby into the family is a cause for celebration. However, the birth of a sibling may be a cause of stress for a young child. An only child who has not yet had to share his / her parents may feel displaced or “dethroned” by the arrival of a new baby which demands a lot of time and attention. The following is a list of guidelines which may help to make the transition of bringing home a new baby easier for your child.
- Tell your child about your pregnancy when you tell your friends. It is important that your child hears about it from you and not someone else.
- If your child is still sleeping in the crib, provide a new bed for him / her before the baby arrives so that your child will not feel “pushed out” of the crib by the new baby.
- Give your child clear information about what a baby is; that is, a baby is not a playmate at first but a new member of the family. Explain to your child that this will be a big change for everyone.
- You may choose to provide opportunities for your child to practice caring for a baby by purchasing a doll close to the size of a newborn. This will allow your child to visualize a new baby before your baby arrives.
- To equate a new baby with a positive experience, you may choose to give your child a gift from the baby.
- If possible, let the father carry the baby into the house so that the mother is able to hug the child right away when arriving home from the hospital.
- It is important to be prepared for any negative reactions from your child. Jealousy and resentment are normal emotions. Acknowledge your child’s feelings and provide him / her with appropriate ways to express them. For example, “You are feeling angry. When you feel angry, you may not hit the baby. Here is a soft pillow for you to hit instead.”
- Your child may have very positive reactions toward the baby. To foster these reactions, provide your child with opportunities to care for the baby, such as feeding, choosing baby’s clothes, helping to push the carriage. Everything your child is permitted to do instills in him / her a sense of your trust which will increase your child’s self-esteem, as well as foster feelings of acceptance and affection between your child and the baby. It is important, however, to remember to follow your child’s lead, and not force him / her into helping.
- Remind your child when getting visitors or going out that although most people love babies it does not mean that they do not like him / her. Try to have small wrapped gifts to give your child when the baby gets gifts, or permit your child to unwrap the baby’s gifts. This will help your child to feel included.
- Keep in mind that not all rough treatment means that your child wants to harm the baby. Young children do not always know their own strength, nor do they understand the fragility of the baby.
- Spend time with your child. If needed, have someone look after the baby so that you and your child can have time together.
- Expect some regressive behaviours from your child, for example, separation distress, toileting accidents. These often stem from anxiety about the new situation in which your child finds him / herself.
- There may be a tendency to encourage your child to become independent sooner with the arrival of a second child. Although this may be healthy, try not to place expectations that are too high on your child or he / she may feel resentful.
- If your child enjoys looking at / reading books, you may want to consider getting some books about new siblings from the library. This is a good way to introduce the concept in a very relaxed way.
- Stress to your child that he / she is special and loved. Often a child will feel that there will not be enough parental love for him / her and baby.
- Remember that as much as you can talk about the new baby and prepare your child for the impending birth, experiencing the situation is the only real way to understand it.