The very moment a baby is brought into the world of an older sibling, their environment shifts forever. This transition is often a difficult one for a child. Rest assured, there is plenty you can do to assure your child(ren) feel safe, loved, and like the important member of the family they are.
In our household, despite following all the tips and tricks I knew from life as an Early Childhood Educator, our three year old struggled with some OCD tendencies after we had our second baby.
At bedtime specifically, if things were not done according to the plan in her head, she would have us repeat it until it was perfect. It was a stressful situation for all of us, elongating bedtime, as well as concerning us about the state of her mental health. With time it passed and to this day we continue to find ways to make her feel helpful, understood, and supported as our family grows together.
When incorporating the tips below, it is important to understand that instant success is not likely, but time and consistency will help nurture the bond between older sibling(s) and baby.
TIPS FOR SIBLING ADJUSTMENT
First and foremost, every family setup is different and each child is unique. You know your child best and what their individual needs are. That being said, all children need to feel safe, loved, and understood. Here are a few ways you can help maintain those feelings:
QUALITY ONE ON ONE TIME
The key to successful one on one time isn’t what you’re doing with your child(ren), it’s how present you are.
Put away all distractions and try your best to give them an allotment of one-on-one time every day. 10-15 minutes is all it takes to make a huge difference in their day.
During newborn days I would read stories to my toddler while the baby was asleep on my chest. On weekends when my husband went to the grocery store, I had him take her with him so that she got a one-on-one time slot and an outing with dad. Win-win errand-running win!
The grocery store trips lead me to tip number two…
FEELINGS OF IMPORTANCE & INCLUSION
Focus shifts to the baby during this time and it’s easy to send off older siblings to play on their own, but most of the time they would like to feel included and important.
Luckily, having your child pitch in a little is easy to do. Have them bring you clean diapers/burp cloths/bum cream while you’re tending to baby. Make sure you express your gratitude for their help!
Remember that every child can help with household chores too, just keep your expectations low and be fully prepared to re-do their hard work (when they aren’t around!!).
Assuring that your child feels like a valued member of the family helps to reduce their feelings of resentment toward their fresh sibling.
ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE
I can’t stress the importance of a steady routine and children enough, but especially through tough transitions like welcoming a baby into the home, routines are KEY!
Of course, life is shifting and things have to change to accomodate baby. Maybe you can’t do older sibling bedtime anymore and your partner has to step in and do it. Perhaps instead of eating with your child for every snack and meal, now you have to hold the baby or nurse. It happens, but keeping things the same as much as possible is really important.
If your child has the language to answer, try asking them how new changes are making them feel and what you can do to help.
Bedtime is a particularly sensitive time in our daily routine as I mentioned above. I always did bedtime with our girl so when we had baby I tried hard to keep it the same. What it looked like for us was both doing bedtime together. My husband did the washroom bit while I held/nursed the baby. Then I tucked our toddler in while he rocked baby. He would sit on the stairs (our comfort compromise) until our toddler was asleep while I bounced the baby asleep on an exercise ball. It was a balancing act and a half, but we made it work!
THE DOULA BONUS
One HUGE perk of hiring a Postpartum Doula is having that extra set of hands. If there is a part of your day that you can just tell is going to be a struggle, have a doula there to help.
We are great with older siblings and often come prepared to spend ample time one on one with them. Personally, I love to bring age appropriate stories with me for some quality reading time.
On the flip side, we are also stocked with all of the tips and tricks for snuggling a baby so that you can spend that one on one time bonding with your other child(ren).