young child playing with baby doll in cot
By keiki

Helping Your Child Adjust to a New Baby

Introducing a new baby to the family is a joyous time, but for many families, it may also be stressful for older children. It’s common for older children to act out and even regress in response to the newest member of the family.

As a parent, you can assist with this transition by being prepared for a bit of a bumpy start. The following strategies can help your child to adjust to a new baby in the family.

Increase Your One-on-One Time with Each Child

Whether it’s by making an intentional effort to play a game together, or just by inviting an older child to join you for a trip to the shops, small investments of your time and energy can make a huge difference.

Maintain Routines Where Possible

Try to continue attending activities and routines your older child is used to, such as sports, swimming lessons, playgroups and childcare. Maintaining familiar routines will help minimize any stress or disruption felt by the older sibling.

Invite Older Children to Participate in "Big Boy" and " Big Girl" Jobs

With a new baby, there are usually some smaller tasks that your older child can help you with. These tasks can include things like bringing you clean nappies or bottles, helping you read a bedtime story to the baby, or folding clothes. Making a point of asking for their assistance will help them feel acknowledged and give them an opportunity to exercise their role in the family by making a valuable contribution. In addition, they are opportunities for your older child to also practice independence and self-help skills that are important to their development.

Be Careful Not to Place Undue Pressure on Your Older Children

At the same time, don’t overload your older child with chores or expect them to “perform” for friends and family who are visiting to meet the new baby. This will only complicate any brewing resentment.

Instead, give your older child opportunities to express themselves individually around friends and family. Allowing them to establish a sense of self outside of the new baby is instrumental to early childhood development.

Teach Your Older Children How to Initiate Self-Directed Play

Don’t feel as though you need to “entertain” your older child all the time, either. Being able to initiate and enjoy self-directed play serves a valuable purpose in early learning and life skills.

Pay attention to what precedes the times when your older child seems to play by themselves particularly well. For example, you might notice that when you spend ten minutes on the floor playing with them, they surprise you by then being able to play for 30 minutes independently.

Teach Your Older Children How to Protect “Their” Belongings

No toddler likes to see their stuff grabbed at by a new addition to the family. To minimise difficulties in this area, teach your older child to put away their toys when they are done playing with them, and to play with those items that are most important to them in a safe location, such as their bedroom or a toy room. You can encourage sharing of appropriate toys as the baby gets older.

Recognise That Becoming a Family is a Process

The togetherness that you long for isn’t going to be accomplished overnight, and that’s okay. It takes time for family members to gel. Set an example by being calm, attentive, and caring. How you care for your child and baby as individuals and siblings will go a long way toward building a close-knit, loving family.

Age-by-Age Strategies

Babies

  • Help your baby develop and stick to a general routine, so that naps, meal times, playtimes, and bedtimes can be anticipated.
  • Point out to your older child/children how the baby responds to them. Perhaps their laughter makes the baby stop crying, or they smile immediately when their older sibling enters the room. Because children often don’t recognise this themselves, pointing it out will help foster the beginning of a warm sibling relationship.

Toddlers

  • Cultivate a measure of regular one-on-one time with each of your older children. For example, play a game during the baby’s naptime.
  • Allow your toddler to ‘overhear’ you talking about how helpful he or she is.

Kindergartners

  • Allow big children to help out, but be careful not to put too much responsibility on their shoulders.

How Keiki Early Learning Can Help

Keeping your older child in a quality child care service after the birth of a new baby can not only help give parents and caregivers some much needed time to care for the new arrival, but also allow the older sibling their own space and activities alongside children of a similar age.

Keiki Early Learning is a childhood education centre that can help your older children settle in to care and feel comfortable and secure before their new sibling arrives. To talk to us about enrolling your child into one of our quality early learning programs, please contact your nearest centre today or email schools@keikiearlylearning.com.au to find out more.