Friday, October 29, 2010

New baby in the house


When a child is no longer the centre of attention, no wonder their behaviour changes
One of the biggest challenges parents face is dealing with sibling rivalry.
And it can occur at any age from toddlers unhappy about a new baby in the home, to teens battling each other for more rights. 
I have written about this topic before, but today I want to focus on how to help young children adjust to a new baby in the family.
Sibling rivalry can often start before the arrival of the second child.
The older child may become aggressive, or may regress by acting more like a baby.
There are many things that contribute to a child not accepting a new sibling.
A child’s developmental stage will affect how well they can share your attention, and if a child is particularly close to their mother, it can be even more difficult for them to accept a new baby brother or sister.
Stress in the family can also make the adjustment harder.
But there are many things you can do to make the adjustment easier.

1. Tell your child about your pregnancy, and involve them in preparing for the new baby. Take them with you when you have scans or antenatal check-ups, and let them hear the baby’s heartbeat. Let the older child be involved in some of the other preparations, such as choosing clothes for the baby or discuss possible baby names.
2. If you plan to move the older child to a new bedroom or bed, make sure you do it well before the baby arrives. This also applies to any other major changes such as toilet training or starting preschool.
3. Be realistic about what to expect when the baby arrives. Explain to them that the baby will take lots of your time and will not be an instant playmate. If possible, visit friends with a new baby so the older child can see how a new baby behaves. 4. Let your older child ask questions about the baby and show them how to touch and hold a baby gently. They could try practicing with a doll.
5. Set aside special time for your older child before the baby arrives as well as after. Make sure each parent spends one-on-one time with the older child every day. Let them choose an activity and follow their lead.
6. Listen to how your child feels about the baby and the changes in your family. If they express negative feelings don’t ignore them - acknowledge them.
7. Ensure your older child has boundaries, or a set of rules, when they are around the baby to make sure they do not physically hurt their sibling.
8. Have the new baby and the older child exchange gifts.
9. Some parents expect their older child to suddenly become a lot more independent but don’t push it. If you expect less independence, you’re more likely to get more independence.
10. If the new baby is likely to get a lot of gifts from friends and relatives, have some other gifts ready to give your older child so they don’t feel left out.
11. Remind visitors not to pay attention to the older child and not just the baby.
12. Allow the older child space of their own with toys that they do not have to share with the baby.
13.Give the older child special jobs they can do to be “mummy’s helper”, and let them participate in the baby’s care, such as pushing the pram, or helping to bath the baby.
14. Read books to them about pregnancy, birth and newborns that are written specifically for children.
My husband and I did all of the above when preparing for the arrival of our second child.
We did not know if we were having a girl or a boy, but my daughter was adament that she was going to have a baby sister.
Lucky for her, our second daughter Paige arrived, and her older sister’s response was “I told you so!”
Perhaps the luck is actually for us because she has not displayed any jealous behaviour towards her new little sister.
Although she has acted like a baby many times, it is harmless role play that helps her understand that sometimes Mummy has to hold, feed, change, rock or bath the baby, and more importantly, she is accepting that my attention is divided.
And there’s the crux of the matter – the older child only wants to know that he or she is still just as important as they were before the new baby came along, so don’t forget to sometimes put the baby down and give your toddler a cuddle.

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