THE MORE, THE SCARIER: Helping your children adjust to a new baby in the house By: Aaron Welch, LMHC

I must confess that I absolutely adore children. No lie. Ever since I was a child myself, I have enjoyed holding little babies, playing with toddlers, and interacting with elementary age kids. Heck, I even love spending large amounts of time with teenagers, which most people believe qualifies me for an institution (and not an institution of higher learning, either). When I was as young as 8 or 10 years old, I was volunteering to work in our church nursery. At age 15, I was willing to wash hundreds of dishes just so I could go to as many weeks of camp in the summer as I could. As a teenager, I was working as a member of faculty for weeks of camp where I could work with kids. At around that same age, I began to pray to God that He would allow me to have a family of my own someday. I know it seems unusual but, here I was, fourteen or fifteen years old and already hoping to have my own kids.

Well, it took me longer than I expected but those prayers were finally answered in the affirmative. In the last four years, I gained a stepson (who is now eleven), another son (now three), and only a week ago, we brought home a little girl as a new addition to our home. I am tickled pink! I often tell people that being a parent is the hardest and greatest job in the world. However, as the day approached that this new baby girl was going to enter the world, I experienced a new emotion in regards to children; fear.

It’s true. I started to really get scared of the repercussions of bringing home another infant. I think my fears revolved around the strong bond I have with my sons, who were already in the home. I have worked hard over these past years at developing a loving, secure bond with the two boys in the home. I love both of them greatly and those relationships were going well, especially with the toddler. I have always been very close to my son. I worked at it but it wasn’t hard work, as it was my lifelong dream. However, I have been very intentional in making sure that my son was confident that daddy loved him, valued him, and would spend time with him. Thankfully, those efforts have been rewarded a hundred times over. He is as secure a toddler as I know (sometimes too secure, which gets him into trouble).

When my wife discovered she was pregnant with another child, I was ecstatic. After all, I was the one whose ideas of family were very reminiscent of the Osmond family choir. :) My wife believes I secretly had designs on having enough children that I could start my own baseball team. Seriously, the thought of a new baby was very exciting.

And then it hit me. Fears began to swarm around me like a host of bees, stinging me with insecurities and doubts. What if I was unable to love the next baby like I had been able to love our other kids? What if I DID love the baby so much that our other kids felt abandoned? What if all the security I had built up in the life of my toddler crumbled under the pressure of sharing daddy with this new family member? What if I couldn’t sustain the level of love and affection as our family grew larger? What if my heart wasn’t big enough for any more kids?????

Over these past months, I have done my best to prepare for this new dynamic. I have read books on the topic. I have interviewed other parents who have already blazed that trail in their own families. I have shared that fear with other men who were preparing for the same changes. And I have searched my heart for answers. The following suggestions are compiled from all of these sources and more. For those of you who are approaching the birth of a new baby and have fears about the adjustment that new baby may bring, these tips are for you. I hope they are as helpful to you as they have been for me.

1. Deepen your bond with your kids BEFORE the new baby arrives. If you are still in the preparation stage, take time now to spend extra time with the children who are already in your home. If you have a strong relationship with them before the newborn arrives, it will give them a stronger foundation to handle the change.

2. Be intentional in your time. After the new baby comes, time will become even more of an issue than it already is. Very rarely will you find that you just have some “free time” to spend with your older children. You will have to deliberately carve out time for your kids. You must do this, or jealousy will be more likely to rear its ugly head. Be creative in taking time for your kids. Even a nighttime walk to the park and back with just your older children will go a long way with reminding them they are still special to you.

3. Make sure you and your spouse work as a team. Again, this does not happen by accident. You and your spouse must share time with each child in the house. Both parents must show that each child is important. Very early on, mom usually spends a little more time with the newborn but dad can still take over enough that mom can spend quality time with her other kids. This is very important both for the newborn (to bond with dad) and the other kids (in not feeling left out by mom).

4. Involve your present children in taking care of the baby. One thing that has worked very well for us, and in the lives of other families, is to include both of our older boys in caring for the baby. Our toddler cannot get enough of touching her hair gently, carrying diapers to the trash can, or getting her blanket when she needs it. Even our older boy changed his first diaper the other day which was so miraculous we thought the heavens would open and we would hear the “Hallelujah Chorus”. :) Now, we must monitor this involvement from the boys as they do not know the nuances of taking care of a newborn but this involvement has gone a long way in their acceptance of their baby sister.


5. Allow your present children to take the initiative with the baby. Perhaps I should have placed this as number 4. The first day we brought our daughter home, we were somewhat apprehensive on how she would be accepted, especially by our toddler. We did not force the baby on him but merely allowed him to approach her of his own volition. Again, this paid off handsomely. Because he didn’t feel smothered or pressured to accept her, it made him far more willing to do so. If anything, we now have to curtail his urges to be around her too much. I mean, BABIES HAVE TO SLEEP YOU KNOW! :) So, I know you want your children to accept the baby but here is some advice: Don’t force it, encourage it.

6. Use healthy touch with all of your children. Healthy, appropriate touch is needed by the newborn as well as all of your children, no matter how old they are. Even teens need a high-five or a pat on the back, as well as hugs. Of course, the younger the child, the more they need physical affection. Make sure you give lots of it to everyone.

7. Always greet your older children first. This was a tip that a friend of mine gave me that he said has worked in his home. He said that, if he is leaving for work or coming home from work, that he always approaches his older child first. To approach the baby first can make the older child feel as if he has lost his position in the home. This idea is subtle, not difficult, but I thought made a lot of sense. The baby doesn’t know better but your older child will.

8. Don’t rub it in! Of course you must show love and affection to the baby in the presence of your older children. But please, at the same time, be sensitive to your other kids. If you have a toddler son and bring home another boy, it cannot be good to tell the newborn, “you’re mommy’s little baby now”, or something similar. Be careful that you don’t say things to the newborn that was always reserved for your other kids. Love on the baby. Give the baby lots of kisses and hugs but be balanced in your affection you show your other kids.

9. Carve out a unique niche for each child. If you can help it, don’t sing the same songs to the newborn that were special songs between you and your other children. Don’t use the same nicknames. Try to watch saying the same pet phrases. Make it your goal to have a new nickname for each child. Learn a couple of new songs to sing to this new baby. It doesn’t mean you can never overlap but try to individualize your affection for each child

10. Don’t freak out! Remember, none of us are perfect. Our kids are not perfect. No family makes a perfect transition with a newborn. If things don’t go as smoothly as you hope, don’t overreact. Just know that your heart is big enough to love all your children. Give yourself and your family time to work through the bugs. You can do it and hopefully these tips can help.

About the Author: Aaron Welch is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has devoted his life to reaching out and helping people to grow and mature through difficult life situations. Whether it has been through clinical counseling, pastoral ministry, youth camps and conventions, public speaking, leadership training, educational instruction, athletic coaching or small group ministry, Aaron has over eighteen years of experience in assisting people through life struggles and personal growth. His genuine love for people and his outgoing personality combine to create a safe and caring environment for putting the pieces of life back together

The LifeWorks Group, Inc.
1850 Lee Rd. Suite 250, Winter Park, FL 32789
407-647-7005, www.LifeWorksGroup.org

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