There is so much for a child to learn about when a new baby is born. Children, regardless of their age, will likely have many questions about their newborn sibling. Some of these questions will be spoken and will be easy for parents to answer, such as, “Why does the new baby sleep so much?” and “Why does he/she only nurse?” Other questions may remain unspoken, leaving a child alone with their curiosity, such as, “Do they care about the new baby more than they care about me?” or “Why did they want a baby when they already had me?” This month, we will focus our attention on how to think about the unspoken questions children may have as their family grows.
To parents, the arrival of a new baby adds to their family; the family grows and all members are loved and cherished. Parents often hope for their children to be able to see things the way they do, but many children view the world through a lens that is colored with their own emotional experiences. Ongoing discussions and heart-to-heart talks can help soften the experience for a child, helping him to feel more comfortable and understood.
Answering Unspoken Questions with Ongoing Discussions
One way to address potential unspoken questions is to keep discussions open and on the table, making yourself available to listen to whatever topics or feelings – positive or negative – your child shares with you. It is easy to assume that children who aren’t bringing things up 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 type of discussion with a child is to convey your understanding that there may be uncomfortable feelings about the changes: “I know it will probably take some time to get used to having the new baby in our family. It’s okay to feel worried about these changes, but we will help and everything will be fine. I’m here to listen or talk, if you like.” Children are more likely to approach their parents with their worries if they feel their parents can listen in an open and nonjudgmental way. It is equally important not to push these conversations – let your child know that you are available and he or she will come to you when the time feels right.
While the general guidance we have given holds true for blended families as well, there are additional factors to consider when helping young children in blended families prepare for the arrival of a new baby.
Most children in blended families, with help and support from both sets of parents, are able to comfortably spread their time between two homes. Still, for many children, there remains a sense of missing out when they spend time away from one home, and changes in the home that occur in their absence can be reminders to them that life goes on whether they are there or not. This is an important consideration when helping children in blended families adjust to the addition of a new baby.
Change Provides Opportunities for Growth
Every family is unique. Young children define family by what they know and feel in their own families, so whether yours consists of two parents and children or also has stepchildren, adopted children, grandchildren, or any other variation, make time to talk together with your child(ren) about what makes your growing family special. Strong families talk and support each other through challenging times. The addition of a new baby or sibling can provide wonderful opportunities to teach your children valuable lessons as well as reassure them that the important things will stay the same despite changes and additions to your family.