The following is an excerpt from my ‘The Second Baby Book’:
Ultimately, the solution to all behaviour problems that arise in the wake of the arrival of a new baby in the family is time. Until that time passes however, the following five steps can really help to reassure your child, which in turn will reduce their grief, frustration, confusion and hopefully their tricky behaviour eventually.
1. Understanding and Empathy
Remind yourself that your child is not jealous, they are grieving, and they are hurting. They are not being deliberately malicious. Their behaviour shows they are struggling and they need your help.
Recognising your child’s feelings and showing them that you understand how they feel can go a long way to resolving their behaviour. “It’s so hard sometimes when the baby needs to feed so much isn’t it? I miss our hugs, I bet you do too?” recognises the child’s feelings, without them needing to verbalise them. It shows your child that you get it. You get them. That you’re on the same team.
Encouraging your child to communicate their feelings with you in whatever way they can is very helpful. If they are older, then instigate conversations with them about their feelings, bedtime is a great time for this. If they are pre-verbal, then teaching some simple sign language can help to remove frustration. If they are verbal, but struggle to understand emotions, then make sure to read books explaining emotions, so that they can point out pictures or characters they feel are like them.
Ultimately connection is the key. Your child is mourning the relationship you once had and feeling pushed out by the new arrival. You need to appreciate what a huge deal this is to them and help them to feel connected with you again. Doing bedtime, without the baby, every night is a great first step. But sometimes children need more. An hour in the park together every Saturday morning, while the baby stays home with your partner, dad, friend or relative. Swimming together, without the baby every Sunday afternoon, something predictable, that occurs every week is the ideal. Once the baby is older, or you feel able to leave them for several hours at a time, then planning some special “mum and son/daughter days” is important. Ideally a whole day, if not a whole morning or afternoon together, while somebody else takes care of the baby, just enjoying each other’s company, doing something fun together, can work miracles. This special day does however still need to be accompanied by the more frequent bedtimes and short park visits.
5. Patience and Persistence
Unfortunately, none of these techniques will work quickly. They require perseverance, patience and persistence. Don’t expect results in days, perhaps not even weeks. Think in months. Having a new sibling is a big deal, it can’t be adjusted to quickly. Often you will find different behaviours reoccur further down the line, even after a period of relative calm. This is normal and once again, they will pass. Eventually. In the meantime, the most important part of the puzzle is you. How you cope and react underpins everything.
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