Preparing Children for a New Baby
Families can grow in many ways. New babies can be added to families by birth, adoption or marriage. Whatever the circumstances, a new addition is often an adjustment for children who are already in the family. Older siblings, regardless of their age, sometimes worry about the new baby taking their place and struggle as mom and dad have to divide their time and attention to meet everyone’s needs.
Fantasies, Worries, and Misconceptions
For parents, the arrival of a new baby means the family grows and all members are loved and cherished. Parents often hope their children will see things the way they do, but kids many view the world through a lens colored with their own worries or ideas. Some children may even have fantasies that the new family member is somehow better or more important, especially because he or she takes more of their parents’ time and attention.
Dispelling Fantasies and Calming Worries
The best way to prevent, or at least dispel, fantasies and worries about your family’s changing dynamics is to keep discussions open and on the table, making yourself available to listen to whatever topics or feelings — positive or negative — your child wants to share with you. It’s easy to assume that children who aren’t bringing things up don’t have any worries, but it is often quite the contrary — children think about much more than they talk about.
A simple way to begin this type of discussion is to recognize that your child may feel uncomfortable about the upcoming changes. You could say, “I know the new baby coming is a lot to think about and it will probably take some time to get used to having her in our family. It’s OK to feel worried about these changes. I’m here to listen or talk, if you like.”
Children are more likely to approach their parents with their worries if they feel their parents can listen in an open and nonjudgmental way. It is equally important not to push these conversations. Let your child know you are available and he or she will come to you when the time feels right.
While the general guidance we have given holds true for blended families as well, there are additional factors to consider when helping young children in blended families prepare for the arrival of a new baby.
Most children in blended families, with help and support from both sets of parents, are able to comfortably spread their time between two homes. Still, for many children, there remains a sense of missing out when they spend time away from one home, and changes in the home that occur in their absence can be stark reminders to them that life goes on whether they are there or not. This is an important consideration when helping children in blended families adjust to the addition of a new baby.
Every family is unique. Young children define family by what they know and feel in their own families, so whether yours consists of two parents and children, or also includes stepchildren, adopted children, grandchildren or any other variation, make time to talk to your child(ren) about what makes your growing family special.
Strong families talk and support each other through challenging times. The addition of a new baby can provide wonderful opportunities to teach your children valuable lessons, as well as reassure them that the important things will stay the same despite changes and additions to your family.
The Lucy Daniels Center is a nonprofit agency in Cary that promotes the emotional health and well-being of children and families. Visit lucydanielscenter.org to learn more.