In our last segment, we discussed helping your child with identifying and expression emotions in a healthy way. Big feelings can sometimes mean big outbursts.
Today, we’re sharing some strategies you can implement in your home to help your child adjust to a new baby and the big changes that come along with them.
These are simple things you can do to help your child through this adjustment to the new baby instead of tolerating your child through this transition.
Notice the word simple – this is important to highlight, as simple isn’t always the same as easy. But it’s worth it for the mental health and sanity of everyone in the family. You are giving your child tools that will benefit them throughout their life.
Point Out Privileges
Remind your child that babies need lots of attention because they can’t do anything for themselves. They can’t eat independently, can’t dress themselves, they can’t move around, or walk, or talk.
Describe things your child does because they’re a Big Kid: brush their teeth, put their toys away, use a fork at dinner. These are things they are expected to do (mostly) by themself. They are responsibilities and expectations.
In return they get a lot of privileges that the baby doesn’t get: playing on the playground, watching TV, going swimming, eating a treat.
Don’t shy away from the big words, such as responsibility, privilege, expectation.
Make a Big Deal About Making the Baby Wait
The nature of having a baby is that your older child will have to do a lot of waiting. Waiting is hard – for adults, too, but especially for our littles! Jealousy is an emotion that kids have a tough time understanding, and it can simmer – and eventually explode – if your child feels like their whole life is a waiting game.
When you put your baby down for a little while, even if they are perfectly content or sleeping, play it up. Dust off your Academy Award!
To your baby: “Sorry, Baby. Right now, Sibling needs my attention. You’re just going to have to wait a few minutes. Please be patient and I’ll come back to help you soon. It’s not your turn right now.”
To your older child: “I’m going to give you my undivided attention right now. Baby is just going to have to wait while I help/play with you. Just like you must wait sometimes, the baby has to wait sometimes, too.”
This simple trick helps your child to feel like they are getting a fair equity stake of your attention and they feel important because they’re not the only one waiting for you.
As your child adjusts to all the change with a sibling, they are likely to explore how far they can push boundaries. They will want to exert power and show they’re still the center of the universe around here.
Consequences are not the same as punishment. A consequence is the action that happens after a choice. There are no “bad” consequences. They are neutral.
Help your child connect the dots between cause and effect. Actions and consequences. For the sake of ease in this example, we’ll use labels “positive” and “poor”. When they make positive choices, they earn positive consequences. When they make poor choices, they earn poor consequences. Let them know they are fully in control of what happens next when they are making a choice.
Positive choice: putting your shoes on — positive consequence: going to the park
Poor choice: not putting shoes on — poor consequence: staying home
Positive choice: talking in a calm voice — positive consequence: staying in the living room with the family
Poor choice: yelling at Mommy — poor consequence: having to cool down in their room
Positive choice: cleaning up toys — positive consequence: getting to play with toys
Poor choice: refusing to clean up toys — poor consequence: the toys get a time out tomorrow
Give them the choices. Link each choice with the consequence. Or work backward : “Would you like you play with your toys tomorrow, or would you like your toys to have a time out tomorrow?” They’ll likely say they want to play with them. “Okay, great! What action will help you to earn that consequence?”
The key here? Follow through. Once you’ve identified the consequence and the accompanying action, don’t waver.
Give LOTS of Win-Win Choices
Control is going to be really important to your child in this stage. They’re going to feel like they don’t have any, so help them feel like things are their idea. You are deciding the ultimate outcome, but they get to choose the how.
Would you like to walk to your bedroom or shall I carry you to your bedroom?
Should we brush your teeth first or your hair first?
Do you want to wear the red socks or the blue socks?
What sounds better to you: carry your backpack or wear your backpack?
Ensure that the choices you offer are always things that you can live with no matter which choice they make. In the first example above, your child is going to bed either way – but they get to decide their mode of transportation. You get what you want, they get what they want. Win-win!
Sometimes, there will be times where you simply must be the decision maker. That’s part of parenting. Let your child know that, once in a while, you get a turn to make the choice, and this is one of the times. Especially when it comes to health, hygiene, and safety.
This time of change can be hard on the whole family. By working together and reminding everyone that you’re all a team, this time can also be a lovely opportunity to deepen bonds and build trust. Your family has grown, and that’s a great thing! Keep it simple, keep it positive, and keep it full of love.