The preschool years are a unique time for not only the growth and development of your child, but also for the growth of families! Introducing a new sibling to your family’s daily routine can be emotional for the whole family, particularly young children and first borns. A Montessori philosophy can help with this time of transition.
Psychology of the Sibling
Did you know that nearly 80% of children in the US have at least one sibling? It’s no wonder then that a new sibling has been described by experts as an essential part of growth and development for the first born. Maria Montessori fostered this development through mixed-aged classrooms to prepare children for encounters they may have with other children outside the classroom.
Often, the first born child experiences a new sibling at around 2-3 years of age, right around the time in child development where they are learning how to regulate their behaviors, emotions, and learning how to become more independent. A new sibling can cause a flood of emotions in your preschool-aged child that can range from joy to frustration to jealousy to excitement, often occurring all the same day. The way in which a child handles a new sibling depends on multiple factors, including their maturity, level of independence, and the environment. Preschool-aged children are very sensitive to transitions, and what bigger transition could there be than an addition to the family?
What YOU Can Do
While parents will likely have their own struggles with the changes that occur with the introduction of a new sibling, it’s important to keep a few things in mind to ease the transition in the home. Maria Montessori could not stress enough the importance of a consistent, daily routine. Because her philosophy was based on the growth of the child beyond the confines of the classroom, her approach can be utilized in the home as well, especially during this important time in the entire family’s life. If there’s one part of the routine to keep, make it the bedtime routine. Everyone is likely to be sleep deprived, so maintaining a sleep routine for your child can prevent tantrums and frustration.
Next, stop jealousy in its tracks by involving your child as much as you can. Create Montessori-inspired lessons and let your child help out. Demonstrate a gentle touch, let your child help out with bath time, reading a story, and even changing diapers. For example, Heritage Montessori fosters care and compassion through our students' relationships with live animals on campus. If your child is interested in dolls, create a lesson on swaddling and changing clothes where you and your child can spend time together and care for the new baby at the same time.
It’s also important to plan ahead. Give your child time to understand the changes that will occur. Plan how you will tell the child of a new family member, the changes that your body will make, and most importantly, keep everything positive while you tell them! The introduction and anticipation are just as important as the event!
Schedule special events where you can give your undivided attention to your child so he or she feels confident that they are still an important part of the family. This can help prevent negative behaviors that are commonly used for attention-seeking.
Keep your child’s preschool involved! Heritage Montessori’s highly trained staff are transition experts and can keep an eye on changing behaviors and give your child the extra attention he or she may need when a new sibling has come home.
If possible, finish transitions like potty training or sleeping in their own bed with your first born before the arrival of a new sibling. Security and confidence in these areas can help you prioritize your attention on your new addition without compromising on important developmental milestones for your first born.
Finally, don’t forget about YOU. Parents are just as likely to feel discomfort during the transition, especially when they are sleep deprived. While children may act out, behaviors can seem exaggerated when the parents are stressed as well, making your short fuse just as likely to tip the scales towards a tantrum in your child. Even just a five minute bath can make a big difference in your attitude. Self-care can provide strength to your foundation to get you and your family through this new period in your lives.
A new sibling is an exciting time in your family! While there may be periods of stress and frustration, remember that your family is a strong unit that not only withstand the storm, but is also a supportive environment for parent and child alike. Bringing the new baby to school as he or she grows also prepares him or her for their eventual education. Signing up your child early can even help avoid the long wait. Cherish the great memories and take small steps to mitigate the not-so-perfect times using a Montessori philosophy in your home!