It has been almost 7 months since we have had our newest little guy join our crew. It did not take as long for us to realize that mixing babies and teenagers was going to be harder than we thought. We have hit a lot of bumps in the road but here are the top 5 things I have learned this far about mixing teenagers and babies.
1.) You CANNOT force it.
It takes a little bit of time for any new sibling (regardless of age) to find their new place in the family. Those first few weeks are focused on the new baby that any older kid tends to get pushed to the side. Since teenagers themselves are dealing with getting a hold of their own new emotions, adding a new baby to the mix can cause some resentfulness. While we did make sure to keep the older kids as involved as they wanted to be, we also let them do it on their own time. For example, when Katie wants to play with the baby, I let her. Once she is done playing with him (and if I haven’t asked her to watch so I can finish dinner or whatever) then I allow her to go do her own thing. I never force the older kids to spend time with the baby. That will come with time and if they can do it on their own terms, then it usually fares better for everyone.
2.) Give them their time.
Since we are a blended family, my husband and I feel that it is important that he be at as many events as he can without the baby. This allows him and the older kids to still have their one on one time as much as possible. Aiden still requires a lot of attention and if he does have to take the baby, then usually it distracts him from whatever event he is at. While sometimes our schedules require this, it still helps to keep the older kids from feeling they are being overlooked. We also will grab a babysitter (hello grandparents!) and go to any event without the baby. Not only does this allow my husband and I to enjoy the event without worrying about the baby, but we get to spend time together.
3.) Help them understand their new roles.
If you have a teenager that is used to having siblings, this may not be as hard. However, Katie still goes to her mom’s every other week or so. This meant that Mike was an “only child” at our house during those times. After several years of this, when the baby arrived, it kind of rocked his world. He no longer had our undivided attention. Honestly, he had very little of my attention. My main thing I tried to help him understand was that we did not expect him to become a babysitter. He is still allowed to do his own thing and that works for us. This maybe a little easier in a non-blended family but in a blended family those lines have to be laid out clearly.
4.) Take time for you and your spouse.
This one is SO important. It is extremely easy to get caught up in the busyness of life that you lose sight of your spouse. When you have teenagers AND a baby, you have to take time out together. My husband jokingly says that they’ll team up against you and you can’t let them beat you. While this is our usual banter of making the best of it, it is true. If your marriage isn’t strong, then teenagers alone can weaken it. Add in an ex-spouse and it can be disastrous. We make it a point to try and have a date at least once a month. This mean NO kids at all for at least a meal. We don’t always do dinner either. We have dropped the baby off before and came back home to take a nap. It was glorious! Find what works best for you and your spouse and make it a point to still connect together.
5.) Be sure you still enjoy the baby.
Adding a new family member can be hard. There are a lot of emotions flying around and very little sleep being had by the parents. This is not any easier when two older kids who are on the brink of independence involved as well. However, make sure you still enjoy the baby. This can be in whatever way works best for you. The first week after Aiden was born, we had the older kids stay with grandparents or their mom’s house. This allowed time for us to bond with the baby and kind of figure some things out. I would not trade those days for anything. It was nice for just the three of us to be alone and soak in the newborn goodness. We still make sure we do things with just the baby. This allows us time to enjoy whatever stage he is in.
What are some things you have found that work best for blending a family? Whatever you are doing, just remember during those hard times, you’ve got this!