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How to help your 'only child' adjust to a new baby

big sister hugging on newborn sibling

Bringing a new baby home brings up a mix of emotions for parents—joy, uncertainty, love, anxiety—but don’t forget about the siblings. Especially very young ones, or first-timers. Even if your toddler seemed excited about the baby before birth, he may change his mind once the idea becomes reality. How your firstborn reacts will, of course, depend on his personality. Children who are easygoing and self-contained are likely to take the new baby in stride, while more sensitive or self-centered kiddoes might need a minute. The toddler’s routine will be interrupted and there will be less attention on him, so regardless, there’s going to be an adjustment period.

Your firstborn will probably be most demanding of your attention most when you’re feeding, bathing, or diapering the new little one and might even “regress” by asking to drink from the bottle, wanting a diaper, or asking to be held.

On occasion, some aggression may be shown. In this case, the best thing to do is calmly explain how that is harmful to the baby and suggest they roughhouse with their toys. (For example: “It hurts your sister when you pull on her arm. Pull your wagon instead.”) Also, it’s important to acknowledge their feelings and offer a solution. (For example: “It feels unfair that mommy is so busy with your little sister now, but if you wait quietly until she’s asleep, I will play with you.”)

Here are 10 tips for creating a harmonious first few weeks of adjustment.

  1. Give it time. These things almost always work themselves out. And if your toddler doesn’t seem to want to be involved with the new baby, don’t push. Some kids cope with the change by ignoring the little one... but eventually, they will come around.
  2. Create a baby - free zone for your toddler. Let him have his own corner of the playroom, or make a special fort in the living room.
  3. Spend positive, one-on-one time with your older child doing things like watching his favorite show with him, making his favorite snack, drawing together, or just cuddling and talking.
  4. Give him “important” jobs that only he can do. It’s even better if these are baby-related (Let him use the camera to take pictures of the baby. Teach him how to put the baby’s socks on. Let him sprinkle the powder).
  5. Encourage him to entertain the baby by making funny faces or singing and dancing—the baby’s laughter will encourage him and make him feel appreciated.
  6. Watch the baby together. According to Baby Center, “When the baby cries, ask him to gently pat her back or talk softly to her. If he wants t o hold his new sibling, set him up next to you and share the baby across your laps.”
  7. Read stories about his new status in life. There are a lot of great children’s books about the importance of being a big brother or sister. There’s “Little Miss, Big Sis,” “I Am a Big Brother,” and “You Were the First” to name a few.
  8. Acknowledge his feelings by saying things like, “I know you’re upset right now,” or “It’s okay to be sad... would you like a hug?”
  9. Watch your words. According to Motherly Parenting, “Don’t blame everything on the baby. Saying things like: We can't go to the park because the baby's sleeping; Be quiet, you’ll wake the baby; or After I change the baby, I’ll help you” can bring up a negative connotation. “At this point, your child would just as soon sell the baby! Instead, use alternate reasons: My hands are busy now; We’ll go after lunch; or I’ll help you in three minutes.”
  10. Ask for his advice—“Do you think your sister should wear the blue bonnet, or the red bonnet today?”
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