Don’t even ask me where the last ten weeks have gone. The days have just been flying by as we have been settling into the busyness of life as a family of four. As with any big life event, welcoming a new baby into the family is going to take some adjusting to for each and every family member – just ask our cat 🙂
For siblings a new baby doesn’t just mean someone else to share Mum and Dad’s attention with, there is also likely to be changes to routines and to the physical space of the home. Their parents are likely to be tired and possibly stressed, or overly sensitive and emotional. Not to mention learning what is involved in their new role as the ‘big’ brother or sister. These are some of the strategies we have found helpful for Immy (at four years old) as she adjusts to having a sibling.
1. Read or play quietly together while you are feeding ~ we will often use the times when I am feeding AJ to read together or to play quietly. Games have included everything from simple board games that can be set up next to me on the couch to imaginative play featuring Immy’s beloved fairies or princesses.
2. Create play spaces where you can be present even when attending to the baby ~ we also have a couch in the playroom with a coffee table that has Immy’s Lego set up on it. I can be involved in Immy’s Lego play even if I am burping or holding AJ, or I can lie her down on the couch beside me as we play. The table makes it much easier for me than being down on the floor, which was especially useful in the weeks immediately after I gave birth. As AJ is getting bigger I can set her down on a rug with her baby play gym for some baby play/tummy time alongside where Immy is playing.
Mummy multitasking at it’s best – playing fairies while feeding the baby.
3. Don’t forget to spend time together outdoors ~ as it is Winter here I have had to make a real effort to get outdoors, especially as Immy can play safely in our backyard without me actually being physically outside. It is however nice to take advantage of the patches of Winter sun to take AJ out so that we can all have some outdoor time together. Popping the baby into the pram or a baby carrier and heading out for a walk is another easy way to be outdoors together.
4. Involve them ~ Immy has grown up in front of my eyes since becoming a big sister. She (generally) loves helping me with anything to do with the baby. However I don’t push her if at any given time she doesn’t want to help as I don’t want her to see AJ as hard work. I also involve Immy in helping me with everyday chores, such as unpacking the dishwasher, folding the washing or preparing dinner, when the baby is napping so that we have that time to talk as we work together.
5. Catch them being good ~ while Immy absolutely dotes on her baby sister and showers her with love, her adjustment to this change in our family has led to some perfectly understandable pushing of the boundaries with both myself and Dad 101. And being overtired and feeling stretched as we ourselves adjust to our new normal, we both felt that we were all getting caught up in the spiral of way too much negative attention as a result. Dad 101 and I resolved to take the time to notice and acknowledge more of the things that Immy is doing right everyday so that she receives more positive reinforcement than negative.
6. Take advantage of the offers of others ~ although it can be difficult to do so, taking advantage of offers to help from beloved friends or family members can make all the difference to family harmony. I developed an infection in the weeks following AJ’s birth and was so thankful for the help of my Mum and Dad who rearranged their own commitments to make sure that one or the other was here with us on the days Immy was home from kindy. This meant that Immy had someone she loved to play with while I rested or tended to AJ, or that I could spend time with Immy while Mum or Dad helped with AJ.
7. Be sure to include pockets of undivided attention whenever you can ~ even small increments of time can make all the difference in the life of a little person, especially one who has had you all to themselves for all of their life to date. Say yes to some play time together or doing something extra fun, like making and sharing a delicious (but simple) afternoon tea together.
This is what is working for us at the moment. Of course, what will work best for your family will be completely individual, depending upon your personal circumstances, especially the age of your older child/ren.
How did your older child/ren adapt to life with a newborn?
- Entertaining a Sibling Whilst Breastfeeding
- 10 Baby Play Ideas
- Dating Your Family
- Managing Play With Children of Different Ages