Helping Your Step-Kids Adjust to Your New Baby
You’re expecting. You are worried about how your step-kids will adjust to your new baby, their new half-sibling. Here are some steps you can take to help them adjust.
1. You and your spouse need to present a unified front to your step-kids. If you and your spouse disagree, do so privately, not in front of the kids.
2. Make sure that your step-kids know that you love them as if they were your own. They need to know that they will not be loved less than your new baby that is biologically your child.
3. Make sure that your step-kids know that love is not lessened by dividing it among a greater number of kids. Love is not a finite quantity. It is not diminished when it is divided by larger numbers of recipients of that love. Instead, love is infinite. You and your spouse can love all your kids deeply, no matter how many kids you add to the family.
4. Let your step-kids know what they can expect regarding how the new baby will affect them. Will they need to share a bedroom? Will their schedules change? Will they see an increased number of visitors in the home once the baby is born? (Note: You will want to let your step-kids know that, in the short-term, the baby will be the focus of much attention. You should emphasize that this is not because the baby is more loved but is instead because the baby is new. When the newness wears off, attention will be more evenly distributed among each of the siblings. You should also reference need: the baby needs more attention because she is less able to do things for herself. Try to inspire in your step-kids a sense of understanding and a desire to help.)
5. Ask your step-kids how they think the new baby will affect them and how they will feel about that. For example, one step-child may say that they new baby will be fun while the other step-child may say that, when the baby is born, Aunt Rita will visit more often (note that this step-child does not like Aunt Rita). When your step-kids express concerns, address the concerns promptly. Can the concerns be eliminated? For example, can you re-frame how your step-child views Aunt Rita? If not, can you limit your step-child’s interaction with Aunt Rita?
6. Allow your step-kids to have voice in the changes being made due to the addition of the new baby. For example, if you learn that your new baby is female, you could ask your step-daughter what color the baby’s blanket should be. What does she think a baby girl would like?
7. Make your step-kids feel important to you and to the new baby. For example, you may say to your step-son, “You will be this baby’s big brother. You will be a wonderful big brother. I know you will protect your baby sister and look after her, because that’s the kind of guy I know you are.”
8. Pay extra attention to your step-kids before your new baby is born. Do things you know they like to do. Tell them that, once the new baby is born, you will be exhausted for a while and much of your energy will be spent on attending to the biological needs of the new baby, but reassure them that this will not last forever.
9. If your step-kids need some one-on-one time with your spouse, either before or after the baby’s birth, let it be. Cheerfully support your step-kids right to spend private time with their parent.
10. Make plans so that your step-kids have some alone-time each week with you after the new baby is born. Involve your step-kids in making those plans. (Note: Grandma and Grandpa are likely eagerly awaiting an opportunity to babysit the new little one. If they will babysit for about two hours each week, you can spend one hour with each of your two step-kids.)
11. Monitor your step-kids and assess what they are thinking and how they are feeling. Do they act happy or upset? Are they saying that they feel like a valued member of the family or a slave tasked with tending to the baby? Ask them questions from time to time about their thoughts and feelings. If concerns are observed or expressed, respond promptly to eliminate or mitigate the concerns.
By handling things as referenced above, you can help your step-kids adjust to your new baby.
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