Saturday, November 7, 2015

Helping Preschoolers Adjust to a New Baby in the House

Hi! I'm Ayn and I am a Ga. Pre-K teacher, serving 4 and 5 year olds in an inclusive setting. I share my classroom adventures on my blog, little illuminations

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This is not my typical post, but as this is something that happens to children in my classroom frequently, I thought I would share some ideas about how to help preschool children transition to a new baby in the house. Parents often come to me to ask for ways to help them manage the mix of emotions the children are feeling about becoming a big brother or sister, the demands of a new baby in the house and even some of the feelings of displacement they feel. Occasionally, I am the one who sees the children acting out their frustrations at school and behaving in ways that have not been typical for them up to that point. I am not an expert, just a Pre-K teacher with lots of real world experience! Every year, I usually have a few families having babies. This year, we've had 3 new babies already and two more families are expecting. 

Having a new baby in the family is quite an adjustment for a young child. It doesn't matter if the new baby is the first sibling or the seventh. Each new baby adds a new dimension to the family and creates a jostling of the family dynamics that can throw a child into a tailspin. Today, I'm sharing some of the ways families can work together to help the preschool child and lessen the anxiety of a new family member.

1. Talk about the the new baby beforehand and realistically explain that there will be times that the new baby's needs will come first. Hearing all about how wonderful a new baby is going to be, only to discover that the baby is creating demands that take you and your time away from him only heightens the jealously. 

2. When people come to see the new baby and bring gifts, make sure you have something special for your child. It is hard for the sibling to see a new baby getting showered with gifts and attention. Make sure your preschooler is included in the attention and not left to the sidelines. When my youngest was born, we gave my older daughter a special doll from the baby. Later, she often changed the doll's diapers and gave it a bottle while we were doing the same for the baby. 

3. Enlist your child's help and give her a few special jobs. These jobs may be things that are helpful to you for the baby's care or they may be other jobs around the house that only "big kids" can help with. 

4. Spend quality time with your preschooler without the baby. It's hard getting time away from the new baby, but it is important that your preschooler has some special time with you that is baby-free. It may only be storytime or a game during baby's nap time, but let your preschooler see that they are still a very important part of your life and that you still have time for them! Quality time alone with aunts, uncles, grandparents or special family friends is also a great way to help children feel important. Enlist other adults in your preschooler's life to help, if possible!

5. Talk to your preschooler and LISTEN! Let them know that their feelings are perfectly natural and that it is okay to experience some jealously or resentment. Sometimes the children don't have the words to express themselves and that is why they act out. Talk about why they may be feeling sad or jealous and ask what they think you can do to help them feel better about the situation. Let them know that while they may not hurt the new baby in any way, it is okay to talk to you about being angry, hurt or jealous. Don't diminish their feelings--let them know that their feelings are natural and it is perfectly okay to feel them.

I know of one family that when baby number seven came along, baby number five wanted no part of it. When the baby cried, he tried to push "that cat-baby" away so he didn't have to hear it crying. Mom talked with him and acknowledged his feelings. He was given some special places to go in the home where he wouldn't be disturbed by "cat-baby"'s crying. Several months later, he is coming around and starting to interact more and more with the baby. 

6. Read lots of books about becoming a big brother or sister. Knowing that they are not the only child to experience these mixed emotions can really help. I'll include several of my favorites at the bottom of this post. Most of my favorites are humorous children's books--after all, laughter is the best medicine!

7. Give it time. It takes time for a family to adjust to a new situation. Preschoolers need a little time to learn the changing family dynamics and discover their new role. 

Fun books for new brothers and sisters:


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