I saw a mom with a newborn baby in the stroller and a two-year-old with arms upheld, screaming to be picked up. I could see they were heading to the open door of a van parked nearby, and I overheard mom, repeating several times, “You’re a big boy now. You need to walk.”
In the end, this mom did concede and picked him up to avoid any further melt-downs (whose I’m not sure).
My heart went out to both of them.
Bringing a new baby into the family is an adjustment for everyone. Regardless of all the preparation and anticipation on everyone’s part – the reality is that things are not the same. And change takes time and can often be stressful.
Young children have radar and they sense their parents’ fatigue as well as less focused attention from them. Experts cite that children react more to this change in their parents behavior and attention toward them than they do to the actual baby being there. It’s noted that the amount of conversation between parent and older child drops as does the amount of actual eye-to-eye contact.
It’s not unusual for parents to see aggressive, swatty behavior in their previously gentle little one or to notice their precocious preschooler resorting to baby talk, helplessness and clinginess.
In a child’s mind “everyone’s busy. They don’t notice me when I’m telling them to look. I have to wait till the baby eats, wait while the baby’s changed, wait till the baby naps and then, all of a sudden, we need to hurry up, hurry up, we have to go.”
Patience – take a breather. Recognize this time of change in the structure of your family and let things settle. By accepting less independent behavior at this time from your child, you will more likely see an increase in independence sooner. Offering to carry your older child before they start to whine and beg or readily helping them with their jacket will very likely satisfy the need to whine and beg.
Include your child in the day-to-day care of the baby. Be partners together. Have them help you problem solve. “Oh, baby’s crying. What do you think he wants?
“Which outfit should we put on the baby today – this pink one or the yellow one with the balloons on it?”
“Here’s your drink. Come and sit near me while I feed the baby and we can look at your book together.”
” Oh baby, you’ll have to wait a second until I get your brother something to drink.”
Put aside the mental list of things to work on with your older child and just let him or her be – who she or he is, right now, in these circumstances, without any new extra responsibilities and agenda to master. This is a time for all of you to refuel, bask in the relaxed circle of your newly extended family, without too many new connotations of what that should be.
Allow it to evolve and it will become the true gift it was intended to be.
If you are experiencing growing pains in your family and want some more suggestions to help things along, give me a call at The Parenting Place, 784-8125.