How do you help your older child adjust to a new baby in the house? It is not easy, but it can be done in a way that encourages your child and keeps him from feeling displaced. Adding a new baby to the family is a life-changing experience. There are things you, as parents, can do to create a positive and healthy family atmosphere. Bringing baby home doesn't have to be a stressful time!
Follow these few simple guidelines and equip your family to conquer the challenges ahead. Going from a family of three to a family of four can be a joyous event, so celebrate this blessed time!
- If you have been chosen by a birth mother, and your toddler is old enough to have a conversation, try sharing the news. Tell him that sometime soon; he will be getting a new brother or sister. Read simple picture books to your child that exhort how wonderful it is to be an older sibling. Read books about babies and ask him if he remembers what it was like to be a baby. Ask him to share what babies need to grow big and strong.
- With the imminent arrival, there is bound to some minor upheaval. Include your toddler in the process by letting him help decorate the new baby’s nursery. Let him decide between the green lamp and the pink lamp. Make sure that either choice is an acceptable one to you and your spouse. Let him pick out a few soft toys to put in the room.
- It is important that for the first year (at least) your toddler does not have to share a room with the new baby. It can cause your child to feel extreme stress and lose valuable sleep. It is also very dangerous. A young child left along with an infant for periods of time is an accident waiting to happen.
- During the day, if you have to leave the children alone for even a minute, have a “safe zone” to place the baby while you are gone. A port-a-crib in the main living area, surrounded by a baby gate is a good alternative. Young children are good at throwing toys and other sharp objects. Make your safe zone out of throwing range.
- When baby comes home, let your toddler be a “big boy helper”. Give him simple jobs to do to help with the baby. Let him pick out clothes for baby to wear. Let him bring you a diaper or help put the baby’s socks on. Try to establish a routine early on, so your older child can know what to expect each day. He wants to feel important and successful. He wants to feel like a valuable member of the family, so don’t be shy about giving him responsibilities. Choose jobs that he is bound to master and feel proud about. Thank him and recognize all his hard work!
- Many people are bound to visit. They will be cooing over the new baby and bringing her presents. It is a good idea to buy a few small surprises for your older child. When all the attention is focused away from him, astonish him with a wrapped present to honor the “big brother”! A good first gift is always a baby doll; complete with a bottle, diapers and other essentials. He can practice taking care of the new infant (just like Mommy and Daddy).
Don’t be surprised if your toddler begins to regress, experience separation anxiety, and/or has a tantrum or two. These reactions are common to the social and emotional pressures your toddler may face. Divide and conquer is a great approach! Many husbands and wives are able to take a few weeks off of work to bond as a family, when the baby arrives. You might want to spend special time alone with each child. You can take your child for a walk to the park, while your husband changes and feeds the baby at home. Later, you can take the baby outside to enjoy the sunshine and daddy reads your toddler a story.
Congratulations on baby number two! You are gearing yourself up for a lifetime of love and happiness through adoption! Your little bundle is going to bless you in ways you cannot even imagine and your toddler is along for the ride (weather he wants to or not). Be mindful of his little heart and plan now to assure that this transition is a positive one for him. As he grows, his sibling is going to play a bigger and bigger role in his life. Create the groundwork now for a harmonious and loving family dynamic!