Welcoming a new baby is exciting! If this is your second or third child, your older kids can get in on the excitement, too! But a new baby is a significant change. It affects you as a parent and affects the children you already have.
Every family has to choose the right time to tell their little one they will be a big sister or brother. Deciding on the right time will depend on factors such as your child’s age, developmental level, and whether or not your pregnancy is high-risk.
Most kids are excited to become big brothers or sisters! But even while feeling excited, they may still feel anxious, scared, and unsure about what this change means for them. Therefore, parents must prepare their older kids for the arrival of a new baby. Or, for that matter, any other significant changes that affect their child’s life and routine.
Here are some tips for talking to your kids about significant changes like a new baby, moving, or illness.
Talk About It
This may seem like a no-brainer, but grownups must talk to the kids about the big change that is happening. Sometimes, we as adults assume kids won’t understand what is happening, for better or worse, and therefore don’t talk to kids about significant changes.
Sometimes, the reluctance comes from adults not knowing what to say about changes, especially sad ones. Here is an excellent list of tips on talking to kids about change from Edutopia.com
Adults should talk with kids on their level, whether the change is a happy and exciting one like a new baby or a new home, or a difficult one like chronic illness or divorce.
Keep the lines of dialogue open and encourage your child to ask questions, especially if they don’t understand something.
Always ensure kids know that negative changes or events are not their fault, and reassure them with as much love as possible!
Use Books as Teaching Tools
I mention books often when discussing how to handle social-emotional issues with kids because books are excellent teaching tools. Books can say what we can’t or cannot find the words to express.
Books also highlight a myriad of social and emotional situations and give kids a chance to connect with characters experiencing the same things.
Get Them Involved
Whether the change is a new baby, starting a new preschool, or even something less positive like helping mom through chemo, find a way to involve your child!
Even when changes are due to something unfortunate like an illness or moving away from their friends and family, find a way to make your child feel useful. It can be as simple as reading a book to mom when she’s not feeling well or packing their stuffed animals and toys for the move.
If you have a new baby coming, talk about how they can help their new sibling! For example, they could help with feeding or playing with the baby.
If your child is starting a new school, take them shopping for new supplies or a new outfit! The goal is to find ways to be involved and feel useful during the change.
Maintain Their Routine
Kids are creatures of habit, so maintain their routine as much as possible. One significant change is enough for them to handle without processing a dozen smaller changes.
If a change in their routine does have to occur, prep them for it and alert them to the change. For example, if mom usually picks them up or drops them off at preschool but the new baby will put that on hold for a few weeks, let them know who is filling in for mom!
If it changes every day, for example, Grandma will pick them up on Mondays and Thursdays, and Dad, on the other days, remind them each morning who is picking them up today at morning drop off.
When navigating a big change, try to maintain their school, nap, bedtime, and eating schedule as best as possible.
Shower Them with Affection and Attention
Change is scary. It makes us all feel uncertain at times. When kids are experiencing a significant change, like a new baby, give them lots of special one-on-one time and attention.
It’s essential for moms to find time with their older kids once a new baby arrives. So dads, partners, grandparents, whoever should plan to step in and take care of the baby for a while so mom can give her older ones some of her precious time.
June 28, 2023, by L. ELizabeth Forry