Written by: Lucy Daniels Center staff
A new addition to any family is always an adjustment for the children already there. Older siblings worry about a new baby taking their place, and they may struggle when mom and dad have to divide their time and attention in new ways to meet everyone's needs. This is especially true in a blended family. There are additional factors to consider when helping young children in a blended family prepare for a new baby's arrival.
Let's face it: Life in blended families is not always smooth for the children involved. Most children adjust well and, with help and support from both sets of parents, find that dividing their time between two homes becomes a routine they simply take in stride. Still, for many children, there remains a sense of missing out when they spend time away from one home, and little changes that occur in their absence can be stark reminders that life goes on whether they are there or not.
Recognize fantasies, concerns and misconceptions
To parents, the arrival of a new baby enhances their family.
The family grows and all members remain loved and cherished.
Parents often hope children will see things the way they see them, but in reality, children view the world through their own lenses that are often colored with fantasies, worries and misconceptions.
In blended families, these worries are complicated by existing emotional challenges. In particular, there's a sense of missing out or being left out when children are absent. Some children may think that the "new" family is somehow better or more desired than the family that existed before the new baby arrived.
Initiate conversations to calm worries
The best way to prevent, or at least dispel, fantasies and worries about the changing dynamics of your family is to keep discussions open, making yourself available to listen to whatever topics or feelings — positive or negative — your child shares with you. It's easy to assume that children who aren't talking about their feelings don't have any worries, but it is often quite the contrary. Children think about much more than they talk about!
A simple way to begin this discussion is to recognize that there may be uncomfortable feelings about the upcoming changes. You might say, "I know the new baby coming is a lot to think about and it will probably take some time to get used to having her in our family. It's OK to feel worried about these changes. I'm here to listen or talk, if you like."
Children are more likely to approach parents with their worries if they feel their parents can listen in an open and nonjudgmental way. It's equally important not to push these conversations — let your child know you are available, and he or she will come to you when the time feels right.
Every family is unique. This statement couldn't be truer for blended families. Take time to talk with your child about what makes your (growing) family special. Strong families talk and support each other through challenging times. The addition of a new baby can provide wonderful opportunities to reassure children that the important things will stay the same, despite changes and additions to your family.
Click here to print a pdf copy of this article.