You and your new spouse are over the moon about having a baby, but the children from your previous marriage are acting strange and upset or distant. What's wrong, and how do you fix it? Tina B. Tessina, PhD, "Dr. Romance" licensed psychotherapist and author, gives you steps to follow to make sure everyone gets onboard with the blessed event.
Dr. Romance’s 5 tips to parenting step children with a new baby:
1. Give your current kids a chance to bond with the baby. Make it very clear that you are all one big family, and you love everyone equally, and act that way. Don’t worry if everyone doesn’t settle in right away; bonding takes time. Hopefully, your blended family was running smoothly before you became pregnant, but the adjustment to a new baby can take time for everyone.
2. Have family meetings weekly. Give everyone (kids, too) a chance to share how they feel, what they like and don’t like, and ask them to share both positive and negative opinions. Invite suggestions about how to make things better. Shared times, such as mealtimes, are important -- but each person needs a break, too. Don’t allow the schedule to be too busy -- plan some time off.
3. New babies absorb a lot of attention and energy, so give your older children some involvement, without dumping too much responsibility on them. Encourage them to be around while you’re tending to the baby– bathing, changing, feeding – and include them in your excitement about how “our” baby is growing and changing.
4. With a new baby, you really need to be on the same parenting page. Mom and Dad need to work out parenting methods, rewards, punishments, chores, allowances, bedtimes, homework, etc. It’s much easier if you have a routine and rules in place before the baby comes. You don’t want the new baby to be blamed because you got more strict. The baby is going to change the whole family’s routines, so discuss that with your children before the big arrival.
5. If one or more of your children is in shared custody, and leaves periodically, take some time to catch up with what they were doing while they were gone, let them know you missed them, then talk a little bit about what was happening at your house while they were gone. The most important thing is that all of your children feel like equal parts of your family, special for their differences, but equally loved.
For more on this, read Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage.