Whether your new addition to the family is the first child or the seventh, there is a roller coaster ride of adjustment that happens for parents, any older siblings and even pets. Most parents do a good job of preparing for the practical aspects of the baby’s arrival by taking prenatal classes, setting up the nursery and baby-proofing their home, but often psychological, emotional and relationship preparation is overlooked.
The effects of a new family member on a couple’s relationship are widely acknowledged, but other family members are also impacted. Older siblings or pets in the home need time to adjust because their routines have been disrupted and they get less individual attention. Sometimes extended family members and close friends offer to cook, clean and babysit, and this can be a great help to new parents. However, if the parents and their helpers have different expectations, this can lead to miscommunication and bruised egos.
Giving some early thought to the impact on family dynamics and household responsibilities can go a long way towards preventing hurt feelings and conflict. The key to a smoother transition is open and early communication. Below are some tips that can help parents ease into the next family stage.
Consider the impact on other family members
- Set the stage for older siblings. Use age-appropriate language to explain the upcoming arrival of the new baby. Many parents use dolls to pretend play or draw pictures to help younger kids to understand.
- To help make the first meeting enjoyable for the older sibling, encourage them to give a small gift to the baby. In turn, they can also receive a gift “from the baby.”
- Family pets need to get used to the new baby as well. Consult with accredited websites and videos, as well as local trainers, to get some strategies that might help a dog or cat get used to a tiny new member of the family.
Talk to extended family about expectations
- If new parents get offers of help from relatives and friends, have a chat about what that will look like. This can be a great benefit to sleep-deprived parents. Some experts advise that most help from others should focus on the nest, rather than the baby. In other words, accepting help with meals, shopping, errands and cleaning is more valuable than offers to take care of the baby all evening.
- Clearly specify to eager visitors when they are welcome. Having people drop by unexpectedly may be more of a stressor than help because socializing might be the last thing that exhausted parents want to do.
Put extra responsibilities and tasks on hold. For example, volunteer work, big family gatherings and promises to visit the office with the baby should take a back seat to family responsibilities and self-care. Trying to be a super parent and overdoing things will likely lead to increased fatigue, frustration and disappointment.
The arrival of a new baby is an exciting time full of ups and downs, surprises, and changes. You will learn that you don’t need to have it all figured out, but with some advanced preparation and effective communication with your partner and loved ones, you and your family will be able to manage the transition.