Welcoming a new baby into the family is a difficult transition for any child. At first, most children feel excited about this new person joining the family. Yet, after the honeymoon period wanes and little Sally realizes Tommy takes up a little too much of Mommy’s time, the excitement turns to jealousy. Jealousy turns into tantrums. And before Mommy can put Sally in time out, she has already painted blue stripes on the white couch and clogged up the toilet with an arsenal of Barbie shoes.
When that cute, cuddly baby is a half-sibling, the shift in family dynamics proves even more treacherous. Your child’s world was already threatened once with the new marriage. But she adjusted.
Now she feels her place in the family endangered once again. So let’s take a few moments to understand her feelings and how we can help her through the transition.
Your Child’s Unique Feelings
Adjusting to a new half-sibling is different from adjusting to a new baby in an intact family because a child in an intact family has never dealt with family separation or anxiety from family brokenness.
Your child might have intense feelings of fear due to things that happened before or during the divorce. Major life events, such as the birth of a new sibling, can trigger these feelings of fear.
Your child might fear being replaced. Maybe she was the youngest child in the family, and now she will lose that special place in the birth order; she will lose what, in her eyes, makes her unique and loveable.
Your child might feel confused. He doesn’t know his place in the family anymore. While this is common even for children in intact families, the feeling is compounded in blended families when there is already so much role confusion.
Easing the Transition
So how can we help our children adjust to a new baby in a blended family?
First, we need to anticipate that the adjustment will be difficult. Don’t let these bumps in the road shock or worry you. The tantrums from little ones or the poor attitudes from older children are natural and will pass.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Second, communicate with your children. Check in with them often to see how they feel about the new family dynamic. Let them voice their thoughts, feelings, frustrations, and concerns. If there is a problem, such as the baby is keeping them awake at night, allow them to be a part of the solution. Maybe the baby could sleep in your room, at the other end of the house, until he sleeps through the night. Maybe you could buy your older child a pair of earplugs. Brainstorm some options until you find a solution that works for everyone.
Also, spend some one-on-one time with your older child. Remind them that they are still as valuable and loved as they were before the new baby arrived. As any parent of a newborn knows, finding small chunks of time can be difficult, but it is doable and it is worth it.
Remember, do not frustrate your older child. Rather, listen to him. Be there for him. He matters. He wants to be heard. He wants to know that he still has a place in the family.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them.
Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.
Finally, pray. Pray for a smooth transition. Pray your children will grow to love one another. Pray God will give you incredible amounts of strength and patience and love for your children on a daily basis. This parenting thing is tough, and we will only walk this road by His grace.