Helping Children Prepare for the Arrival of a New Sibling
The latest 'Understanding Kids' column
Children, regardless of their age, will likely have many questions about the arrival of a newborn sibling. Some of these questions will be easy for parents to answer: “Why does the new baby sleep so much?” Other questions may remain unspoken: “Will I still get to do all the things I love to do?” or “Why did they want a baby when they already have me?”
This month, we focus on how to think about those unspoken questions children may have as their family grows. Ongoing discussions and heart-to-heart talks can help soften the experience for a child, helping him to feel more comfortable and understood.
Answering Unspoken Questions With Ongoing Discussions
One way to address potential unspoken questions is to keep them open and on the table, making yourself available to listen to whatever topics or feelings — positive or negative — your child shares with you. It’s easy to assume that children who aren’t bringing things up don’t have any worries, but the situation is often quite the contrary. Children think about much more than they talk about.
A simple way to begin this type of discussion with a child is to convey your understanding that there may be uncomfortable feelings about the changes. You could say: “I know it will probably take some time to get used to having a new baby in our family. It’s OK to feel worried about these changes, but we will help and everything will be fine. I’m here to listen or talk, if you like.”
Children are more likely to share their worries with parents if they feel Mom or Dad can listen in an open and nonjudgmental way. It’s important not to push these conversations. Let your child know you’re available and he or she will come to you when the time feels right.
While the aforementioned guidance 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. Changes that occur in the home during their absence can remind 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.
Change Provides Opportunities for Growth
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 stepchildren, adopted children, grandchildren or any other variation, make time to talk with 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 or sibling 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.