He looked up at me over the tiny nose all dotted with freckles as he gripped his new baby sister tightly in his arms. He’s six and a half, so he’s old enough to not be plagued by jealousy over the baby. His place in our family as the funny third born is solid and firm, but I could still see this sparkle of a need as he looked to me for reassurance.
You still like me too, right?
On September 22, we welcomed home our fourth child. She was the surprise baby that we didn’t really expect, but who was so perfectly meant to be a part of our family. Our other three children are older. At 6, 8 and 11, they don’t need as much physical reassurance than younger children might need when bringing home a new baby, but there are still adjustments that need to be made.
I hugged my six year old, the boy who’s been begging us to make him a big brother for years, and I told him that no one could ever take his special place in my heart. He smiled and leaned forward to plant yet another kiss on “his baby’s” forehead. That’s all he needed to hear. He just needed it to be voiced out loud.
As we make this transition from family of five to family of six, I’ve made a conscious effort to include the bigger kids in the transition. Here are a few measures we’ve set in place to make sure the transition goes over as smoothly as possible.
1.) Don’t place too high of expectations on the older children.
Life gets significantly busier when you bring home a new baby. It’s easy to suddenly expect the older children to carry more weight than they’re used to around the house, but that doesn’t make it fair.
My kids aren’t used to being quiet, so I am working to offer grace when they come screaming through the house. I haven’t reacted perfectly every time, but I’m getting there. This has been an especially difficult adjustment for my eleven-year-old, because in case you weren’t aware, eleven-year-old boys are loud. It’s just in their nature to be so.
Learning to be quiet isn’t an easy skill, but he’s trying, and I’m working on my patience when he forgets.
2.) Don’t be disappointed when the newness and excitement of the new baby wears off.
Last night, my eight-year-old informed me that she thought babies were annoying. This was after she endured her sister wailing and fussing for much of the evening, as babies are prone to do.
I gave her a little smile and reassured her that it wouldn’t be this much work forever. But yes, newborns take a certain amount of patience, and I cannot expect an eight-year-old to possess that much understanding. Grace is needed, as is a place for the bigger kids to escape to when the fussy baby becomes too much.
3.) Don’t sweat the small stuff.
With my first-born, I was super vigilant to keep things clean and quiet, and I minimized his exposure to germs at every opportunity.
I don’t have it in me to maintain that level of watch at this point. I did institute the rule that they can’t stick their fingers in her mouth if they haven’t washed them first (they think it’s hilarious when she sucks on their fingers), and that no one but the baby is allowed to suck on the pacifier. (Seriously – I had to make that a rule.)
Other than that, however, I’ve had to relax a bit when the bigs interact with their sister. This is new for everyone. It’s exciting and hard, and it is a huge adjustment. In a few weeks, though, when the haze of these early days finally wears off and we settle back into a routine, I pray that we’ll be stronger as a unit, and that resentment won’t leave any lasting marks on little hearts.
I also pray that the eleven-year-old figures out what an “inside voice” sounds like.
Have any of you welcomed home a new baby with older children in the home? How did you make the transition a smooth one for your older children?