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How to Help Your Child Adapt to a New Baby

The arrival of a new baby is a major adjustment for everyone. It can be particularly tough for a young child who is used to being the center of attention. Here are some tips to help your firstborn cope with a complex set of emotions.

Talk About Feelings
Your older child may feel confused, anxious, sidelined and angry. Ask questions and encourage your child to express those feelings. If he or she is young and has a limited vocabulary, help by providing the words. 

If you can’t give your older child what he or she wants, don’t always give a reason related to the baby; doing so may trigger resentment. 

It’s common for kids to revert back to behaviors such as thumb-sucking and bedwetting when a new baby arrives. That can happen because of stress caused by the sudden changes or as a way to seek attention. Don’t scold or punish your older child. Instead, encourage him or her to talk about negative emotions and work on healthy ways of dealing with them, such as art and physical activity.

Don’t judge your child for having negative feelings. That is completely normal. Being able to vent and discuss those emotions can be helpful.

Keep Things as Close to Normal as Possible
A new baby can throw routines into chaos. Maintain your normal daily schedule as much as you can. Keep your older child’s bedtime and wake up times the same as they were before the baby arrived.

Teach Your Firstborn How to Interact With the Infant
An older child may be rough with a baby, either because of negative feelings or because he or she doesn’t understand how fragile a newborn is. Talk to your older child and demonstrate appropriate and safe ways to touch and interact with the baby. Keep a close watch on the two until you’re confident that your older child understands. 

Get Your First Child Involved
Include your older child in caring for the baby in ways that are age appropriate. For example, ask your older child to hand you a diaper or a bottle, or to help you fold the baby’s laundry. Offer them plenty of thanks and praise, especially in front of others.

Make Your Older Child Feel Special
You may receive lots of gifts for the new baby from family members and friends. Give your older child some gifts, too. They don’t have to be expensive or fancy. A new book, game, puzzle or set of crayons can help you avoid making your older child feel left out. 

Make it a point to spend one-on-one time with your first child. Play a game together while the baby is sleeping, read a bedtime story or go for a walk or bike ride together. Even 10 or 15 minutes of alone time on a regular basis can let your older child know that he or she is still special to you. Be sure to give your first child plenty of affection.

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