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Three Year Old Adjusting To A New Sibling

by Kaylee
(Via Facebook)

Kaylee posted a message on Inspired Parenting Tips Facebook Page asking about her three year old son. She co-parents with his father who recently has had a new baby with his girlfriend.

Kaylee has noticed her son's behavior has changed since the birth, and he is wanting to be babied, is playing up at school and being disruptive. Normally a bright and polite little boy, she is wondering if he is feeling
displaced since the arrival of the baby, and wants some ideas for helping him adjust.

Parent Coach Annie Desantis Replies:


Kaylee, it sounds like you have an excellent relationship with your ex and your co-parenting is working really well. Fantastic if you can do things all together as a big family, the more you all share in the parenting the better, and the more Kaden will realize he is not being replaced, and that he is loved just as much as before the little one came along.

It is perfectly normal for an older sibling to have an adjustment period when a new baby arrives, and of course there is always such a fuss made of the new baby.

You mentioned he is wanting to be babied, and you have been emphasizing him being the BIG boy. In addition to that I would go along with his need to be babied, it won't last for long, and you can make a kind of game out of it. The more you try to push him to being the big kid, and get annoyed with him being babyish, the more he will feel his feelings are not OK. When we are validated right where we are, then we can move on a lot quicker.

A new baby changes the dynamic in a family, and he may well be feeling he is not the special one any more. It will just take time for him to adjust and realize he has gained another little person to love him, and that everyone still loves him heaps. He has probably been the star of the show for quite some time, so will very likely be feeling a bit sidelined.

Having lots of fun times - both as a large extended family, but also making sure he still gets special attention for himself is great. It would also be good if his father could have some special time with just him, so he has some extra attention just one on one. Of course you can't dictate how they spend their time with Kaden, but clearly you have a great relationship and they will likely be open to ideas. All children in families need one on one, and specially at times when there is an adjustment to make, or more stress in the family, our kids need a bit extra.

Part Two Follows . . .

Comments for Three Year Old Adjusting To A New Sibling

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Adusting To New Siblings - Part Two
by: Annie Desantis

You mentioned he might not be able to communicate his anger, and you are probably right. Kids react, but they don't have the cognitive understanding to rationalize their feelings out.

Sometimes anger comes out in other situations that are safer - ie not so much to loose. However when something happens at school, you can't deal with it. The school needs to deal with that at the time. Often we drag up misbehavior and interrogate our kids when they get home. But for them the incident is over and done with, and we can end up making them feel even worse if we are not very careful. Of course you want to know what is happening at school, and you want to encourage him to talk about his day. But just be careful not to get into double disciplining him or adding to the drama of it all.

Communication Not Interrogation


Instead you can ask more general questions like:
"What did you like best about school today?"
"What was the worst thing that happened?"


Then IF he talks about something that bugged him, don't get into lecturing him, just help him to talk about how he felt:
"So you got mad with Joey?"
"What happened then?"
"How did that make you feel?"


We don't tend to show our kids how to deal with anger and frustration, we just tell them off if they act up. Life can be pretty frustrating for a three year old, new baby or not! He is at the age where he will be testing his power anyway, but young children don't have the ability yet to switch from reacting, to being rational or getting control of strong feelings. If he already has some anger, confusion or fears with a new baby on the scene, then he may well be acting out in other situations.

Learning To Control Strong Feelings


Controlling strong feelings is a learned thing - the pathways actually have to grow in the brain, and many adults don't have good neural pathways! The best thing we can do as parents, is to show our kids how we get control when we get mad. Make it obvious - "I'm feeling really mad right now, I'm going to go and stomp around the garden to calm down" "I need to just take some deep breaths so I don't say things that are mean"

Part Three Follows . . .

Adusting To New Siblings - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

Play Games To Help Express Feelings


You can also play games with kids teaching them about feelings and expressing them in better ways. Our feelings are not bad, we all have strong feelings and they are our GPS to tell us we want something to be different. What is not OK, is if we dump that energy on someone else in a hurtful way. It takes time to learn to firstly recognize the feelings, and then choose to do something differently.

The Grumpy Dance is a good one with little kids - stomp around yelling all the things that make you mad, you will end up giggling and turning the mad energy into fun, which is exactly what you want.

Painting and drawing is also a good way for kids to build some connections between feelings, expression and cognitive understanding.

Drawing out feelings, or doing a grumpy mad painting, then a sad painting, then a sunny happy painting. You can write some words around it if he wants - naming the things that make him mad. It is great if we can do these things along with our kids - they learn from seeing us process things, so much of what we do is internal, so actually showing our kids that we have BIG feelings too and how we deal with them is very powerful.

Kaylee, it sounds like you are a fabulous Mom, and you are all doing a great job parenting little Kaden. Enjoying him and having lots of fun times with him is the most important part of parenting. He will adjust, and will quickly realize he still has all these people that love him to bits, and will settle into being the big brother.

Have fun,
Annie D :)

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