(24)New baby_helping school-age children and teenagers adjust.jpg

How children and teenagers might feel about a new baby

If you have school-age children and teenagers and you’ve welcomed a new baby, your older children might have strong feelings about the situation.

For example, they might feel:

  • excited about having a newborn to help care for, cuddle and play with

  • disappointed because the reality of a newborn is different from their idea of what it would be like

  • jealous because they have to share attention with the new baby

  • annoyed and resentful because the new baby cries a lot, disrupts their sleep, creates extra chores, or means they have to wait for your help or attention

  • excluded or not as important to you, if you can’t give them as much attention as they’re used to

  • embarrassed if they’re the only ones among their friends with a newborn sibling, especially if they’re teenagers.

All children have to make adjustments when a new baby joins the family. If your older child’s initial reaction to the baby isn’t positive, it might help to know that positive sibling relationships usually develop in time.

If you can make this a positive and exciting time, your child will feel that the change is about everybody in the family and not just about the new baby. You could highlight the things you love about your children and the important contribution they make to the family – for example, ‘You make the best chocolate cake in the family!’

Involving school-age or teenage children with a new baby

It’s good for you and your spouse, if you have one, to talk with your child about being involved with the new baby. You can start these conversations even before the baby is born.

Your child might have some ideas about how they would like to be involved. And even if your child doesn’t have any ideas, just making the time to talk about the situation shows them that you care and that you think their feelings are important.

Primary school-age children

Your primary school-age child might like to get involved by:

  • passing you the things you need to give the baby a bath or nappy change

  • singing a song to the baby or playing peekaboo

  • reading the baby a story

  • sharing bath time

  • playing gently with the baby.

If your child decides they want to get involved, praise will help your child feel good about having a go and encourage them to do it again. If your child isn’t interested in helping, try waiting for a few days and then asking again.

Teenage children

Your teenage child might like to be involved in more active care of the baby – for example, watching or playing with baby while you cook dinner.

But it’s normal for teenagers to be more interested in their own lives, friends and activities than they are in babies. Over time, a bond will probably develop if you don’t push the children together.

Also, your teenage child might not want to babysit or change nappies. Your child is more likely to want to be involved if they feel that it isn’t a chore, so try not to push your child into doing things.

Emphasising your teenage child’s age and maturity can encourage your child to feel more responsible and motivated to help.

Making one-on-one time for older children after a new baby arrives

Children of all ages need a strong relationship and warm, loving interactions with you to feel secure and confident. This can be particularly important if older children feel like they’re getting less of your time and attention because of the new baby.

One of the best ways to strengthen your relationship with your older children after your new baby arrives is to make some one-on-one time for your older children each day. This time together is special in itself, and it can also give your child the chance to talk about how they’re feeling about the changes in your family. If your child has been expressing their feelings through challenging behaviour, it can make challenging behaviour less likely.

Here are some tips for making the most of one-on-one time with older children and teenagers:

  • Try to set aside some time each day to talk with your child without interruption.

  • Try to organise some fun activities alone with your child if possible, like doing arts and crafts, or going somewhere together – your child might like to choose.

  • Use family mealtimes as a time to talk about what has happened during the day.

  • Try to attend children’s activities, like sporting events or school performances. This shows you’re interested in the things that are important to your children.

  • Work with your spouse or caregiver to give older children one-on-one time. For example, one of you could take the baby for a walk on a weekend morning, so the other can share a lazy breakfast at home with older children.

  • If you are a single parent, try asking a close friend or relative to care for your baby so you can enjoy being alone with your older children sometimes.

© raisingchildren.net.au, translated and adapted with permission