How school-age children and teenagers might feel about a new baby
If you have a school-age or teenage child and you’ve welcomed a new baby, your child might have strong feelings about the situation.
For example, your child might feel:
- excited about having a new baby to help care for, cuddle and play with
- disappointed because the reality of a new baby is different from their idea of what it would be like
- jealous because they have to share attention with the new baby or the baby gets to stay home with you while they go to school
- annoyed and resentful because the new baby cries a lot, disrupts their sleep, creates extra chores, or means they have to wait for your attention
- excluded or not as important to you, if you can’t give them as much attention as they’re used to
- embarrassed if they’re the only ones among their friends with a newborn sibling, especially if they’re teenagers.
All children have to make adjustments when a new baby joins the family. If your child’s initial reaction to the baby isn’t positive, it might help to know that positive sibling relationships usually develop in time.
If you can make this a positive and exciting time, your child will feel that the change is about everybody in the family and not just about the new baby. You could highlight the things you love about your child and the important contribution they make to the family – for example, ‘You make the best chocolate cake in the family!’
Involving school-age children and teenagers with a new baby
It’s good for you and your partner, if you have one, to talk with your school-age or teenage child about being involved with the new baby. You can start these conversations even before the baby is born.
Your child might have some ideas about how they’d like to be involved. And even if your child doesn’t have any ideas, just making the time to talk about the situation shows them that you care and that you think their feelings are important.
Primary school-age children
Your child might like to get involved by:
- passing you things for the baby’s bath or nappy change
- singing a song to the baby or playing peekaboo
- reading a story to the baby
- sharing bath time
- playing gently with the baby.
If your child decides they want to get involved, praise will help your child feel good about having a go and encourage them to do it again. If your child isn’t interested in helping, try waiting for a few days and then asking again. If they’re still not interested, let them know that’s OK.
Your child might like to be involved in more active care of the baby – for example, watching or playing with the baby while you cook dinner.
But it’s normal for teenagers to be more interested in their own lives, friends and activities than they are in babies. Over time, a bond will probably develop if you don’t push your child and the baby together.
Also, your child might not want to babysit or change nappies. Your child is more likely to want to be involved if they feel that it isn’t a chore, so try not to push your child into doing things.
Emphasising your child’s age and maturity can encourage them to feel more responsible and motivated to help.
Making one-on-one time for school-age children and teenagers after a new baby arrives
Children of all ages need a strong relationship and warm, loving interactions with you to feel secure and confident. This can be particularly important if your school-age or teenage child feels that they’re getting less of your time and attention because of the new baby.
One of the best ways to strengthen your relationship with your child after your new baby arrives is to make some one-on-one time for your child each day. This time together is special in itself, and it can also give your child the chance to talk about how they’re feeling about the changes in your family. And if your child has been expressing their feelings through challenging behaviour, it can make this behaviour less likely.
Here are tips for making the most of one-on-one time with your child:
- Try to set aside some time each day to talk with your child without interruption – for example, when the baby is sleeping.
- Try to organise some fun activities alone with your child, like doing arts and crafts or going somewhere together. Your child might like to choose.
- Try to attend your child’s activities, like sporting events or school performances. This shows you’re interested in the things that are important to your child.
- Work with your child’s other parent or carer to give your child one-on-one time. For example, one of you could take the baby for a walk on a weekend morning, so the other can share a lazy breakfast at home with your child.
- If you’re single, try asking a close friend or relative to care for your baby so you can enjoy being alone with your child sometimes.