Help Your Preschooler Welcome a New Baby Brother or Sister
Younger children commonly experience feelings of resentment, anger and jealousy when a baby arrives home from the hospital. You will not be able to completely eliminate hard feelings, but you can mitigate their effect by showing understanding, expressing love and involving him or her in the baby care process.
Here are six suggestions for helping a preschool-age child overcome that distress and adjust to having a new brother or sister.
Negative reactions often arise from being unpleasantly surprised. Prevent that by speaking with all your kids in simple terms throughout the pregnancy about what introducing a baby into the household will mean and how things are going to change. Consider involving your youngest children in preparing for the baby by, for example, arranging the nursery. Do be careful not to over promise on the joys of having a newborn in the home, however; the baby will not be a playmate from day one.
Address feelings of abandonment
The newborn will occupy much of your time, and envy over the attention you give the baby may be unavoidable. Let your preschooler know you understand that and do not scold him or her for feeling ignored and abandoned. That will only increase unhappiness. Instead, take time to cuddle with your preschooler and reassure him or her of your love. Then carve out at least a few minutes each day to spend together privately. Beyond that, consider planning a weekly “date” for playing or going out to a store or movie.
Allow time for adjusting to the new sibling
The arrival of a baby throws off other children’s routines, potentially halting or reversing progress in potty training, getting dressed without assistance and feeding themselves. Your child may see the attention being given to the helpless newborn baby and then seek attention by also acting helpless. Such regression is typically short-lived, so be patient and understanding.
Even 3- and 4-year-olds can help care for a newborn in ways that let them see they are contributing in significant ways. Ask your child to retrieve blankets and baby wipes, and allow him or her to hold the baby while you watch closely.
Guard the newborn’s safety
Do not allow your preschooler to act aggressively toward the newborn. Let your child know what actions are and are not acceptable. Be firm in enforcing those rules of behavior. You may need to punish your preschooler, but always explain the reason for the punishment while focusing on the bad behavior rather than the negative feelings. Do not be harsh, and, over the months, dole out more hugs and kisses than penalties.
Don’t dote solely on the baby
Keep as much focus on your preschooler as you can without overdoing it. For instance, have a spare gift you can give to your preschooler when the baby receives a present. And when guests come to see the newborn, make sure your child hears you brag about his or her accomplishments.