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I was having a conversation with Cher B over at The Sticky Apron, within the comments section on her post Raising Tough Boys with Sweet Hearts and she inspired me to write this weeks post. We were talking about how my sister had given my nephew a “training” doll back when I was pregnant with the big sis. This was one way she showed me, how to help kids adjust to a new baby.
We had always wanted our kids to be close, there was only going to be a two-year age difference, but she wanted to make sure her rough and tumble tough boy was ready to handle being around a baby. It was so sweet to see him carrying around this little baby doll which he kindly named after his soon to be cousin. Seeing this, I imitated my sister when I found out I was pregnant with the little sis.
Getting into this conversation with Cher B., she nudged me to make a post about the “training doll”. Thinking of this over the past week or so, I decided that I would take her advice and share what we have learned in trying to help the big sis adjust to having a new baby in the house.
How to help the kids adjust to the idea of a new baby, before the big arrival.
Start with a “training” doll. Providing the little sis with a practice doll, and explaining how we need to take care of the baby, and be gentle with her, was the first step we started to take in her adjustment. As rough and tumble as my nephew was, the little sis is a princess-tomboy and can hang with the big dogs, so she needed just as much help in being gentle as he did.
Mind you, giving a young boy, like my nephew, a training doll will help in raising a tough boy with a big heart. It in no way affects masculinity, as I know some dads may fear. My nephew is our resident Bruins Fan (just like dad) and asked to be Darryl from the Walking Dead for Halloween, so he is still just as boyish as ever.
You can take the training doll further, once the baby arrives, and have your child “change” the training doll while you are changing the baby. This way, they can see what the baby is doing, spend time with you, and learn a little too. This also leads to good conversations about the baby. You can take this time to remind them of how you used to change their diapers too, and reminisce about them as a baby. The big sis loves to hear about when she was little. Sometimes she will even tell me what she did when she was a baby. Apparently she can remember everything.
Let the kids talk to the baby and introduce themselves as the big brother or sister. It helps to remind them that they are the big brother/big sister. Just like daddy should, let your child talk to the baby while they are in the womb, this helps in letting them try to get to know the baby before they arrive. Also, it is a good idea to bring them to your big ultrasound (as long as they are old enough not to get in the way or be too much of a distraction for everyone in the room) so that they can see the baby for the first time with you.
The big sis loved this, though I was weirded out that she was so obsessed with the blood in the umbilical cord that the technician was pointing out. Seriously, she kept asking to see the blood over and over again. She is so not a girly girl.
It’s also a great time to remind them of how you also talked to them when they were in your belly, and how exciting it was to wait to meet them. It really helps them to know that you were just as excited about them, as you are about the new baby.
When reminding the kids that they are the best, because we all do, make sure that it is followed with their name. Instead of just saying “you are the best.” we started telling the big sis, “ You are the best ‘ big sis’ ”. This is something I learned from my mom once she became a grandma. She calls everyone “my favorite (INSERT GRAND KIDS NAME HERE).” This is a great way to make a distinction that you love them because they are them, and there is no one else like them. Continue this with the baby too, and you will get slightly less jealousy. No fighting over who mom means when she says “you are the best” because they know they both are.
Start having special “dates” with the kids. We would be lying to ourselves if we said that things would not change once the baby arrives, because it will. The whole family dynamic will shift in different ways. This can be a hard adjustment for the kids. However, the big sis was used to having us all to herself the last 4 years, so adding someone else to the mix was going to be a big change. We started making sure to plan some outings with just us and the big sis before the little sis even arrived, that way we could continue this once the little sis came. Sometimes it’s taking time out to go see a movie. Like, when we went to see a breakfast showing of The Lego Movie, and grandma watched the little sis. Sometimes it’s just something as simple as the big sis going to the grocery store with daddy, while I stay home with a cranky baby. This way, she gets quality time with the two of us, but also some one on one time too, both are very important, especially during the early stages of adjusting to the new baby.
How to help kids adjust to a new baby, once they are at home.
Keep your regular routines as much as possible. For us, the biggest routine is bedtime. We read one story, sing our nighttime songs (for us it’s my rendition of Hush Little Baby, and You Are My Sunshine) and then it’s off to bed. When we first brought to baby home, we made no changes to this very specific routine, and as much as possible, we tried to make sure that both mom and dad could.
Let the kids help with small tasks for you and the baby. There are so many things that they can’t, or shouldn’t do, that it helps them to know they can help with some of the smaller things. We have the big sis help with picking out the little sis’ clothes, getting things put in the dirty clothes, gathering us small things like diapers and wipes, and other small tasks that we feel she can help with. Everything is based on the age and stage of your child, but it really does help them to bond and feel like part of the family team, if you ask them to help even if it’s something as small as throwing something away for you.
Cuddle time is key. One of the biggest issue the big sis had, was the amount of cuddle time we have with the little sis. To say that the little sis doesn’t like to be put down is an understatement. She has gotten better in the last few months, now that she is 10 months old and a lot more mobile, but she still is quite a cuddler. As long as I have someone to watch the little sis, or when she is down and the big sis is still up, I try to let the big sis cuddle with me even if it’s just for a few minutes. This always seems to put a nice smile on her face, and I remind her of how much I love to cuddle with her, which makes her smile even more.
How to help kids adjust to a not so new baby, as they grow.
Beware of jealousy and make sure to praise the big kids too. My mother-in-law warned me about this, and I have noticed the same thing, kids don’t get jealous until the baby can actually start doing things. As the baby grows, at least to the kids, they seem a little less fragile.
Once we started to get excited and tell the little sis how proud we were when she started smiling, laughing, clapping, and more, that is when the big sis started to really get jealous. She seemed confused as to why we would get so excited when the baby clapped, when she has been doing this for a lot longer and we never got that excited for her.
It’s these times that we have to remind them how excited we were when they hit these milestones. We also have to make sure that we do praise our older children for the small things they do, like helping with the baby, all of their wonderful artwork, and more. Whatever you can think of, just acknowledging that you are proud of them too, goes a long way.
Start to separate baby items from big kid items, with some help of course. Now that the baby is older, your big kid probably has some old toys that would be perfect for them, and maybe some old books too. We recently started organizing the big sis’s toys, and let her decide what she was too big for. She then helped me put those items in a special bin for the little sis. We also tackled her enormous
book collection, and made two shelves – one for big kids and one for little kids. Keeping them involved in the decision process for this helps a lot with sharing. You may notice them play with these younger toys a little, and that’s okay, because they actually tend to try to play with the baby too.
Let them bond. Once the baby can sit up and crawl, its a good to time let your child start to play with the baby. You want to supervise of course, but this way, they can start to build a bond, which will grow as they do.
Start incorporating the baby into the regular routines. Again, I will use bed time as our example, as this is really the one big routine we have. Now that the little sis is older (10 months old to be exact), we have started to include her at bedtime. Instead of reading one book, we now read two. We let the big sis pick out one big kid book and one little kid book, so they each have their own story. We stay on my bed, and read together. Then we move on to song time, which I have changed up a bit to incorporate both girls names in each of the songs we sing. The big sis actually gets a kick out of this, and if I say “you” instead of “you girls”, she will correct me, which I find funny.\
See what happens and roll with the punches. It is all just trial and error really, you just have to see what ideas you like, adjust them for your family, and see if it sticks. Some advice I got from watching others, some from blogs and other online resources, and other’s I just sort of make up as I go. There is no perfect way, and not everything will work for everyone, but I at least wanted to share what has worked for us so far. Like I said, the little sis is only 10 months old (it seems like no time, and a heck of a lot of time, have passed, all at once.)
What have you done to help your kids adjust to a new baby?
Visit www.growingupmom.com for more wonderful articles by Nikki. Her helpful and insightful tips about parenting are a great read.