Parents who are adopting a baby and already have an older child at home need to make sure they do everything they can to help their older child adjust to the new baby. It’s completely natural for your older child to be jealous and/or act out when a new sibling arrives. Here are some tips on helping your older child adjust to a new baby.
Older Child Age: Under 24 Months
Many psychologists say this is the hardest time for an older child to accept a new baby sibling at home. Children this age require constant attention and it can be hard for them when a new baby arrives because they may feel like they’re losing your attention. Toddlers might not show jealousy until your younger child becomes mobile and starts to grab your older child’s things. It is best to prepare your child before a new baby arrives and get them excited about the prospect, even if they don’t quite understand. When your new baby arrives, don’t fall into the trap of negotiating with your toddler. If he or she wants something while you’re taking care of your newborn, tell them you are sad you can’t do it immediately, ask them to help you with the baby, and promise you’ll help them when you’re done.
Older Child Age: 2–3 years
Many children at this age feel very conflicted and jealous about the arrival of a new baby. Sometimes they will resort to acting like babies themselves. A good solution for this is to play with your older child like he or she is a baby again. While you do that, explain to your child why it’s important to take good care of a newborn baby. At this age, transitioning your older child to a toddler bed is a great way to give them something to feel proud about while giving them positive attention and reinforcement. This has the added bonus of freeing up the crib for when the baby needs it.
Older Child Age: 4–6 years
Children this age are often more understanding of what’s going on with a new baby in the home, but they can still get jealous. Try setting aside time to spend with your older child alone away from the new baby. You can invite them on a trip to the grocery store or run a special errand of some kind. Show your child you care about their emotions by acknowledging them and talking about them in an understanding and compassionate tone.
Older Child Age: 7–8 years
It takes more effort to get children of this age to open up, but you can find ideal moments to talk about your child’s feelings, like after a book before bedtime. Ask your child what changed when the new baby arrived. The answer might help you understand the situation better and get ideas for what you can do to help ease their anxiety. Do your best to engage your child in taking care of the baby, like asking him or her to read a story or sing a song to the new baby.