Healthy ways to welcome a new baby to the family
Adding a member to the family is an exciting time for parents. But for young children, the arrival of a new sibling can be a confusing experience. They may be unsure what a baby will mean to them—and their relationships with mom and dad.
“It’s not uncommon for some children to regress during this time,” says Michelle Elihu, perinatal educator at Scripps Health. She teaches And Baby Makes Four, a class that prepares families for the arrival of a new baby. “The older siblings want attention and they think that acting like an infant is a way to get it.”
For a lot of children, the fear of being replaced causes sibling rivalry.
“You want to make the transition to a big brother or sister smooth by letting your child know there is plenty of love to go around for everyone in the household,” says Elihu. “It’s important to set the stage early for a healthy relationship between your child and the baby.”
Tips for introducing new siblings to each other
1. Stress that each child is perfect just the way they are
By acknowledging how great your child is, they’ll be less likely to feel animosity toward the baby. Let them know that you want to add to your family because your child is so amazing. This reinforces that you are not trying to replace them.
2. Talk to your child in a real way
Avoid using patronizing tones and words when talking to your child about the baby. Instead, talk to them about how important they are to the family. This will help create a feeling of purpose and a closer bond between your child and the new baby.
3. Praise your child for being a big kid
Reinforce positive behavior, and stress the things your child can do as a big brother or sister. Listen to them carefully when they talk about feelings so they don’t think they have to go into tantrum to be heard.
4. Spend time with your child
To let them know they are loved, spend time with your older child without the baby so they can get your full attention.
5. Stress safety for your child and the new baby
Talk about the importance of hand washing and teach kids about choking hazards. Make sure the older children know babies are delicate, and explain why they may not be able to play with their sibling right away.
Take the class
Offered at Scripps, And Baby Makes Four helps the whole family prepare for a new baby. Parents and their kids, ages 3 to 6 years old, are encouraged to attend.
“When they know what to expect, children can hear more ‘yesses’ from their parents when the baby comes home,” adds Elihu. “That way, the kids can be involved with the new baby in a hands-on way, which helps them bond with their new brother or sister and gain a sense of pride in themselves.”
To register for the And Baby Makes Four class or get more information, call 1-800-SCRIPPS (1-800-727-4777).
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