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A growing family

Are you expecting your second baby and wondering how your first born will handle the change? Sydney Local Health District's Child and Family Health Nurse Kim Dunlop has some tips to make the transition as easy as possible!

Growing Family

"A new baby can cause a huge disruption to the family, especially with a second child, because the first child has never known anything other than being the centre of attention" says Ms Dunlop.

Depending on the age of your first child when their brother or sister comes along, their understanding of the situation will vary.

A 12 to 18-month-old won't really understand sharing or why mum suddenly needs to spend so much time with a new baby. Two to three-year-olds might throw a few tantrums as they test the boundaries. Children aged over four will be able to understand and help, but still need reassurance and plenty of attention.

Whatever the age, Ms Dunlop says it helps to prepare your first child for the arrival of your second ahead of time.

"Tell them there's going to be a new person in the family. Get them involved in things like preparing the baby's room and put the car seat in early so it's not a big change all at once."

After the arrival of a baby, some children's behaviour may go backwards in some areas, and that's partly to get attention.  For example, a child who is toilet trained might start having accidents.

"Try not to make a big deal of it, work through it with them and give them reassurance" says Ms Dunlop.

Importantly, aim to give the older child some one-on-one time every day, without the baby or any other distractions. Ms Dunlop also recommends giving older children praise for their good behaviour.

"They love your praise and will want to repeat that action. Often they repeat bad behaviour because they get the attention that they're really craving and they're missing."

It won't be easy for every family and in some cases it could take months to settle into a new routine, but remember it's a big adjustment for the older child and your love and attention will help get them through.