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Giving up the 'Baby' Position

We have a new baby in our house: a little boy named Charlie. He’s quiet and calm and (knock on a massive redwood tree) he doesn’t cry too much unless he really kind of needs to. And this has obviously been a really sweet surprise so far since I’ve got two other kids in the house who often seem to enjoy crying as much as they dig ice cream.

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The funny thing, though, is I was really pretty worried about my other son, Henry, when his baby brother finally arrived. Henry is a wonderful boy, full of life and energy (oh, the vast acres of energy), but he also just turned 3 years old. And as any parent of a toddler and a baby can tell you, sometimes the one who used to be the baby of the family isn’t so keen on giving up that title.

With our daughter, Violet, I wasn’t nearly as concerned; she is 5 now, relegated to big sister status forever. And she knows it.

Yet, with Henry, he’ll be moving on from the youngest to the middle child, and I figured that could be tough on the dude.

Well, we tried to prepare Henry for this big adjustment in his life, my wife and I did, and guess what? I think we might have done some things right for a change! Because even though the infant is still a really new part of his world, our older son has really been a superstar big brother since Charlie showed up.

So, given how well-adjusted Henry seems to be to giving up the Baby Crown, I thought I’d share the three main things that mom and dad did (and continue to do) that may just have helped made the big transition a lot smoother. Because, listen, when it comes to toddlers, usually it’s just best to use someone else’s proven advice and run with it.

1. Talk it up. As soon as we found out my wife was pregnant with our third child, we started really talking to both of our kids about the baby on the way. And by talking, I actually mean listening.

See, it’s great to introduce the idea of a new baby to young children, but I found that it was just as important to let my own two motor mouths do as much waxing and philosophizing on the tender subject as their chatty hearts desired.

They feel like they are in on the action, not standing off to the side watching it all go down.

We’d talk about everything from what Charlie’s first words might be someday (both my kids figured he would speak to them the moment he popped out!) to what sort of special skills each of them would be able to teach their little brother in due time. (Violet: drawing; Henry: jumping off countertops.)

I really believe familiarizing themselves with the very idea of a living, breathing sidekick has helped my older kids adapt to welcoming this new kid in town.

2. Involve them. Long before our latest baby was born, my wife and I had been tossing around ideas with Violet and Henry regarding jobs and tasks that they could each help with when the big day finally arrived.

We’d discuss who wanted to help wrap blankets around the baby and who might want to hold him in their lap during morning cartoon time, stuff like that. Now, naturally, upon the infant’s arrival, a lot of those ideas came and went pretty quickly, but still, they seemed to have worked some magic. Both of his older siblings really do love to hold him in their blanketed laps most mornings so far, even if they get bored with him after just a few minutes.

The point here is they have been looking forward to "helping out" with their baby brother for a long time coming now, and every little thing that they do these days makes them feel like they are really getting their hands dirty. Which, the way I see it, they really are—just by fawning over him and tossing him the rubber ducky they insisted on getting him at the Walmart.

They feel like they are in on the action, not standing off to the side watching it all go down.

3. Ignore the baby. OK, that little topic heading might sound a bit harsh or whatever, but it has its place, trust me. See, maybe the most vital thing that any parent/partner can do with older kids when a baby shows up is to just spend a little quality time with the big kids.

I know this isn’t necessarily groundbreaking info or anything, but what I have discovered, and what many people might not know, is that paying attention to your kids is especially effective when the baby is just over there, just lying in the crib or in the other parent’s arms. Why? Well, if you think about it, there has to be a kind of big, strong satisfaction that comes over a young heart/mind when mom or dad is spending time watching some Peppa Pig or reading a story or doing a little coloring at the dining room table just with the "big kids," you know?

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By recreating the old days on occasion, by going back to the days, not so long ago, before the baby dropped down into their lives, kids are reassured that lots of stuff will always be the same, no matter what. And that their mom and dad still really dig doing all the same awesome things with them that they used to do before.

If the baby cries, the other parent can handle it for awhile, right?

I mean, we’re busy over here. We’re playing rubber dinosaurs attack the plastic food. And, c’mon, what could be more important than that?

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