Dealing with new siblings can be hard. Dealing with new step siblings can be even harder. Karen Becker gives advice on how to build a new normal with a blended family.
By Karen Becker
Anytime a new baby is added to a family, parents consider the siblings, but when you’re adding a step-sibling to the mix, there’s a more to consider. Once you’ve considered some of the items below, it’s time to use the tips provided to help your family come together strong!
When you’re bringing a new family into the mix, the age of the siblings should be considered. The younger the child is, the more willing they may be to accept the baby. That doesn’t mean the older brother or sister won’t act out when the baby is here, but they’re more likely to be excited about the prospect of a baby brother or sister. As children get older, however, they’re more likely to dislike the idea of someone else in the family. There are a lot of reasons for this: attention is taken off of them, they may not like babies, or they’re simply afraid of the change because they don’t know what it’ll be like. Consider your child’s age as you look at the tips below.
You know your children better than anyone else. What are their temperaments like? As babies, did they do well with others holding them or were they more resistant to change? When they’re acting out, do you redirect to something high-energy or low-energy? Do they do best in situations where they have time to process what’s coming their way or does processing time make them anxious? If you’re unsure of what your child’s temperament is, the resources page on my website has a handy guide for you.
Finally, though children in non-blended families don’t have to consider their relationship with both parents, it’s an important consideration for blended families. How does your child get along with their stepparent? If they have a positive relationship, your child is more likely to accept a step-sibling, but if your child’s relationship with their stepparent hasn’t developed into something positive, there are some ways to help that first.
Once you’ve considered all of that, there are several tips to help your children handle their new step-sibling well.
First, if your children are older and expressing concerns about having a step-sibling, talk to them about it! They’re absolutely entitled to their opinion on the matter. This doesn’t mean your child runs the house. All it means is you’re willing to listen to their concerns and to do what you can to help them cope. The more open you and your children are now, the more open you’ll be as your child ages.
Know your children’s temperaments and what helps them best deal with difficult changes. How did they handle the divorce? Did they take up a new hobby? Listen to music? Journal? Find the positive coping skills they found to help them get through the divorce and help them use that again if they’re struggling with having a step-sibling.
If your children and their stepparent haven’t developed a great relationship yet, now is a great time to work on that. Again, consider how your child best handles changes and use that to help them feel comfortable when developing the relationship with their step-parent. Build on the positives that are already there and take it slow.
Many children feel as though they will disappear into the background when a new baby comes, especially a step-sibling. Many children may feel like their biological parent is trying to replace their other parent and may feel like a step-sibling is trying to replace, them, too. Though it’s not at all what you and your spouse have planned, it’s fair for your child to have those feelings. The important thing to do here is to communicate. Consider how your child needs to be shown love. Ask them when they feel most loved by you and your spouse and then work to ensure you’re showing that love to them in a way that they understand. Empower them to communicate with you. Listen when they talk and hear what they’re saying. The more open you are to listening to them, the more they’ll be willing to communicate with you and feel included in your growing family.
Have some patience with the change in your family. Younger children will not understand that a newborn can’t play Legos with them for a long time whereas an older child may not like that the baby cries at 3am. Be patient as your family creates their new normal. Bringing a baby home is difficult no matter what, there are growing pains for everyone. The way you handle it is being watched by your children, so the most patience and humor you can show will help everyone feel more comfortable.
Because it’s fair for your children to be fearful of what happens with their biological parent, it’s important to keep that relationship strong. Plan one-on-one time between the biological parent and child so they feel more at ease and relaxed about the changes happening.
You and your family will need to build a new normal, again, and there will be growing pains with that. Get everyone excited about the changes by asking what your older children can teach the baby, where you can all go on vacation, and involve them in helping decorate the baby’s room. The more included your children feel, the more likely they will be to accept their new step-sibling as you build your new normal.
As always, don’t hesitate to reach out for help if things aren’t going well. There are many types of therapy available for you and your family.
This article originally appeared on Divorced Moms
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