Q: We are excited to welcome a new baby to our family. But now we are concerned how our 3-year-old son will react to the new addition. Any tips on how to ease the transition?
A: The addition of a new baby can change the family dynamic you have been enjoying. But being open with your oldest and getting him or her involved in the next few months can help alleviate some concerns.
Start by talking to your child. Picture books from the local library will help him to understand what is happening. Pull out his baby pictures and talk about when he was born and what he was like when he was a baby. At 2 to 4 years old, your child might not want to share your attention with a newborn. But explain that a baby needs a lot of attention and love from its family. Talk to him about the things he gets to do – go to bed later, play with certain toys, eat certain foods – a baby cannot do.
Get him involved. Take him shopping with you for baby items like bedding, toys and clothes. Ask him to help in setting up the nursery. Let him pick out a special item to give to the baby when it is born. Or ask him to make a picture that can be hung in the baby’s room.
Talk about the baby growing in your abdomen and let your son feel it. Kids might get excited about the thought of a having someone to play with. But explain that a baby is not an immediate playmate and eats and sleeps a lot. Get a baby doll and demonstrate a baby’s needs like feedings and diaper changes. Check into a sibling preparation class at your local hospital.
Kids are not easily adaptable to change so keep in mind the changes that will happen before they happen. For instance, if the older sibling needs to move to a different room or into a different bed, try to do those before the baby arrives. This will give him time to get used to the new arrangements.
Older children can also react negatively to the changes and could take their frustration out on the new baby. If he tries to harm the baby, intervene right away and explain that he is not allowed to hurt the baby. Don’t leave the newborn alone with a child younger than 12. Alleviate the potential for harm by praising the older sibling when he acts lovingly toward the baby and allowing him to get involved with activities like singing, feeding or changing baby’s diaper. Try to give him extra attention and love.
Don’t be surprised if your son regresses in behaviors. For instance, he may have potty training accidents or will try to get your attention by breaking the rules. Don’t punish him but rather praise him when he does something good. He needs the assurance that he is still loved.
By nurse practitioner Tina Bettin DNP, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, APNP, ThedaCare Physicians-Manawa.