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Adjusting You Home for New Family Members
Creating A New Normal
Whether adding new family members through birth, adoption or marriage, adjusting to a new person in the house can be a difficult transition for many. Three keys to making the transition as smooth as possible are good communication, setting expectations early and making realistic adjustments to routines and living arrangements.
As much as possible, and on an age-appropriate level, explain to your children what is happening as early as possible. The worst thing that can happen is for your child to be blindsided by change without hearing it from you – for example, if a friend asks your child, “Are you excited about the new baby?” before you tell them you are expecting. It’s important that your children understand that their position within your family is secure – kids, no matter what their age, may be scared that their parents will no longer love them like they did before the new sibling, or may be fearful that they are being replaced. It’s important to not only talk with your children, but encourage them to express how they are feeling and really listen to what they are saying, acknowledging both positive and negative emotions. If there are multiple children within the family, they may not all take the news the same way – try to spend some one on one time with each child to get a good sense of how they are coping with the change. Let them be involved in the preparation as much as you can so they feel like they are a part of the new addition.
Set Expectations Early
It is very important to lay out clear expectations of what is and what is not acceptable before the new family member comes into your home. If a new baby is being born, there are many age-level appropriate books and movies that can help your child understand what is about to happen. If they have a favorite TV show or book character, see if there is an episode or book about adding a new sibling and then talk about it with them afterwards. Help them understand how to be gentle with babies by letting them hold a baby doll, teaching them to properly support the head and body. Explain that no matter how upset they get, not being gentle and hurting the baby is never acceptable. If older children are being added to the family, explain to your children that disagreements may occur, but that there is an appropriate way to deal with those disagreements.
Adjustment to Routines and Living Arrangements
More than likely your children will experience a signification adjustment to their current reality with the new addition. Whether it is a new room or having to share a room, sharing mommy and daddy with someone else or simply a change in schedule, your child’s “normal” will not be the same. That said, make the changes as exciting as possible (have the child help you decorate their new room, or pick out new bedding if they are sharing a room) and follow their normal routine as closely as possible. Children often adjust better to big changes when the smaller things in their life, like their bedtime routine, remain stable. Once the new member is in the house, spend some time honestly reflecting on how the transition is going and do not be afraid to make changes. Two eight-year-old girls may not share a room well, and you may need to find a different solution until everyone has had time to adjust.
Most importantly, ask your children how the adjustment is going and listen to their answers.