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Adjusting to a New Baby - Tips for Toddlers, Preschool, and Elementary

Welcoming a new baby is the most wonderful mix of emotions. On one hand it’s the highest of the highs, pure joy and excitement. On the other hand, it can be frustrating and exhausting. It’s a whole new experience every time you do it. 

And guess what, it’s no different for your older kids. Whether they are just toddlers or are much older, a new baby welcomes a wide range of emotions. Much like ourselves, children shouldn’t be expected to old express one feeling (either happy or sad) when it comes to a new sibling. Happy, excited, frustrated, confused, elated, nervous, and angry are all valid. And if your kids are anything like mine, it’s likely a combination of all these feelings at any given time. 

Tips to help your toddler, preschooler, and elementary children adjust to a new baby at home

I think the most helpful thing we can do as parents with older children and a newborn is to recognize, acknowledge, and accept these feelings without judgment. We have to remain calm in the face of toddler rage, or extreme silliness. We can name feelings when they may not even know how or why they feel something. And, we can offer loving support if really big feelings take over. 

There are some other ways that we have been supporting our “big kids” as we have welcomed Theodore into our family. 

Toddler

I think most of us expect that toddlers will have a difficult time adjusting to a new baby. They may have behavioral changes, toilet learning regressions, and less independence. These changes are usually temporary and everyone eventually finds balance. Gus definitely is adjusting to his new role as a big brother. While he is typically a pretty flexible child we are seeing some big feels, and less independence. Here are a few things that have helped him during the transition: 
  • keeping his routines as normal as possible.
  • getting out of the house - even if it’s just for a diaper run
  • inviting participation in baby care tasks
  • accepting when he has no interest or negative response to the baby
  • keeping firm but gentle limits in place to help him feel secure
  • offering support without judgment in those moments that big feelings take over 
  • helping him with tasks that he was previously independent with 

Preschool/Kindergarten 

Sometimes it can be easy to assume that older children won’t have as difficult of a time as a toddler will when it comes to adjusting to a new sibling. Then, we feel super frustrated with that child because our expectations are that they can handle this. But, I’ve found that is often an unrealistic expectation for what are still really young children. Nora, too, is adjusting. Even though she has a younger and older sibling, the changing dynamics at home can be difficult. Here are somethings that have helped with the transition: 
  • making an effort to spend some extra one-on-one time with her
  • offering opportunities for meaningful participation with the baby - while a toddler might gather supplies, a slightly older child could change a diaper more independently  
  • continue to invite participation in household activities 
  • talk about feelings and reactions when they arise, acknowledge and accept them 
  • again, help with tasks that she knows how to do but needs some additional connection

Elementary 

Older children still face a big adjustment when it comes to adding a new baby to the house. I've found that they are more tolerant of the amount of time a baby takes, but still feel a shift in the new family dynamics. Henry has actually had a pretty good transition but that doesn't mean that there are zero feelings or adjustments. Here are a few things that have helped with this transition: 
  • carving out some one-on-one time, especially doing something that he really enjoys 
  • giving him new responsibility around the house and with his siblings 
  • having conversations with him about how he is doing, what babies need, why his siblings might be having a harder time 
  • keeping things as normal for him as possible
  • allowing him special times with Teddy, holding him and participating in care tasks 
  • respecting his need for quiet when that arrises 

Again, in all these situations I expect that everyone will get back to a much more normal routine within a few weeks. Until that happens, we give a lot of grace to one another. And, recognize that we will have to find our new groove as a family of 6 together!

Tips to help your toddler, preschooler, and elementary children adjust to a new baby at home

Has anything helped your children adjust to a new baby? 
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