Parent Corner: New Arrivals

by KAREN COREKIN-DeLaMER, Education and Community Relations Coordinator, Northern Door Children’s Center

In my last column, I had a question from “Mom Second Time Around”: the mother of a 3-year-old with another child on the way. She asked for advice about how to help her daughter prepare for the arrival of her new brother and ideas for helping her daughter adjust once the baby had joined the family. Last time, I addressed things to do before the baby arrived. This week we’ll look at strategies for assisting her little girl after her new brother is born.

Art by Andrew Kleidon

Dear Second Time Around,

A new baby in the house will probably be a novelty for your daughter at first, and she may swing from one emotion to another. Feelings are big and bold for children your daughter’s age, and for a while, she may want her new brother to go live somewhere else! 

Here are some ideas for helping her adjust to the new member of the family:

• For the first few days, see how your daughter interacts with her brother. Notice what interests her about his care and how much involvement she seems to want. She might want to sit next to you as you feed him, or help hold a bottle if you will be using one. She could pick out his outfits in the morning, sing her favorite songs to him or help you during his bath time. 

• If she doesn’t appear to want to be directly involved – and she may not – you might have her pick out a doll that she could care for as you are caring for your son. Or, if caring for a baby isn’t her idea of a good time, you could find some other ways for her to be helpful that she enjoys. Be sure to give her lots of acknowledgment for her help! (For example, “Thank you so much for getting me a towel to dry off your brother after his bath – that was very helpful!” or “Thanks a bunch for helping Daddy in the yard today!”)

• The new baby will be receiving a great deal of attention from relatives and friends. During those times especially, remind her how lucky her brother is to have such a wonderful big sister. Encourage visitors to give her attention as well, which will help her to feel included.

• Set up and keep regular dates with your daughter so she still has individual time with one or both of her parents. 

• Be prepared for her to regress to some “baby” behaviors, such as wanting a pacifier or bottle, or wanting to wear a diaper again. This is very typical behavior and is a natural way of expressing jealousy of the new baby. You and her dad will need to decide ahead of time how many of these kinds of things you’ll allow her to do, if any. If you do allow her to do any of them, it’s probably a good idea to put a time limit on it.

• Above all, be accepting of whatever feelings come up for her during this adjustment period. This will help her to feel secure, knowing your love will never change.

Best of luck as your family grows to include a beautiful, new member!

Karen Corekin-DeLaMer holds degrees in elementary, special and early-childhood education. She has been a teacher, administrator and parent educator since 1984 and is the education and community-relations coordinator for Northern Door Children’s Center in Sister Bay. Email your questions to her at [email protected].