A couple of months ago, I wrote a series of posts about how we helped smooth Zippy’s transition from only child to big brother. (You can find those posts here, here, here, and here.) But then I found myself wanting to know what the science says. Is this transition as big a deal as parents think it is? Do most kids show some difficulty making the adjustment? Is there something the research can tell us about how to help our kids adjust?
Having a research background is both a blessing and a curse.
I often feel a pull toward wanting to know what the evidence is for an idea or theory, rather than rely on my own opinions, intuitions, and wives’ tales. But then I get totally overwhelmed by just how much information exists and conflicting viewpoints and the realization that even science is not certain. And I just want to get back into a nice little bubble with my own personal theories and forget some expert is out doing the research to guide us in the right direction. Sometimes my desire to know the answer just kicks my butt.
But, lucky me, in this case someone has already done a lot of the work! Just a couple of months ago, Psychological Bulletin published an article by Brenda Volling from University of Michigan summarizing 40 years worth of research on kids’ transition from only to big sib. Yee-haw! Dr. Volling’s summary is so up-to-date that it hasn’t even gone to press yet and is only available as an “advance on-line publication.” You can hippity hop over to Psych Bulletin to chug through 30 pages of research review (if you, too, are into that kind of stuff), but I’m going to give you all the quick and dirty as I see it. Over the next several weeks, I’ll share what I came up with as 8 take-away points and what they might mean for helping to smooth the transition. Many of you are expecting baby #2 in the next few months (congrats!) and I hope this is helpful.So today….
|Each of these kids may have a very different reaction|
Point 1: There is no one, universal way that kids react to having a new baby in the house.
The answer to how a child will respond seems to be “it depends.” It depends on a lot of different factors and there is a lot of individual variation. Some kids get clingy and anxious or irritable and difficult for a few months, but they soon get back on track and it is relatively smooth sailing from there. (Zippy fell into this category. He was very emotional at first, but with some extra support and encouragement it didn’t last too long.) Some kids have a tough time and it doesn’t seem to let up, even a year later. Some kids take it all in stride and having a new baby around doesn’t seem to ruffle their feathers at all.
So when you hear things like kids get anxious and cry more and have more conflict with their parents and don’t sleep as well and argue more – well, that could be what happens when you introduce baby #2, but it very well might not. I remember having a couple of friends whose kids seemed to do fine at first, but became more difficult around the time baby hit 3 months. Suddenly, big sister or big brother was having fits and being oppositional and all that stuff that makes parents pull their hair out. I saw a similar pattern with Zippy, so I assumed this was the common response. Not necessarily, the research says!
There is no clear, straightforward way to predict which category a child will fall into – bump in the road, delayed reaction, easy breezy, or on-going turmoil. That said, some of the upcoming points touch on factors that influence how a child responds to this major life event of becoming a big brother or sister and give ideas of what you can do to ease the transition.I’ll post a new point each Friday, so check back for more. Even better, clickity clack on one of those follow buttons up top to get posts delivered straight to your news feed, email, FB, or twitter.
Are you expecting #2? How do you think your oldest will handle the upcoming changes in your family?
Photos courtesy of David Fulmer.Some rights reserved.