3,591,328—the number of babies born in the U.S. in 2023. Wow! That’s a lot of homes adding a new family member. And what about the 1 in 25 U.S. families who have at least one adopted child? Or the six million U.S. households that have more than three generations living under one roof? How about the 203,770 children that entered foster care in 2021?

Adding a new member to your family can be challenging for everyone. A smooth transition begins with open and honest communication. If you or someone you know is preparing to add a child to their family, here are a few tips to prepare the whole family for the changes.

Tips for Parents & Caregivers

  • Start the conversation early. Be open and honest while being age-appropriate.
  • Spend individual time with each child and try to continue things you did with them before the addition, i.e. watching movies, reading, etc.
    • For older children, consider writing encouraging notes, or getting them a card or a little gift.
  • Model healthy expression of feelings such as, “I’m feeling overwhelmed right now. Let’s take a break.” This normalizes a healthy response and feeling big emotions.
  • Communicate the need for safety (physical and emotional) of the new family member.
  • Teach children that crying is one way babies communicate.
    • Normalize that it may be “annoying” or “loud”, but remind them that we all cried when we were babies too! Or give an example, “Remember when you fell and scraped your knee and cried? What happened? You cried and I came to see if you were okay, and we put a band-aid on it. Your crying got you the help and comfort you needed.”
  • Build on each family member’s strengths. For example, if your youngest daughter is great at organizing, have her help organize things in the home ahead of her sibling’s arrival.
  • Encourage family and friends to give all children equal attention. This will avoid current family members feeling forgotten when the new family member is in the home.

Preparing Young Children

Infancy to Age Two

Young children, infancy to around age two, don’t fully comprehend the addition of a new family member, so simple things may help them adjust.

  • Be positive and talk about the baby or new family member in a positive way.
    • Kids are very smart and will seek to emulate your behavior and attitude. If you’re positive, they will feel positive.
  • Look at and read books about babies or changing family dynamics.
  • Do something special when the baby arrives. I still remember getting a “Big Sister” pin at Bryan when my little brother was born.


The toddler age can be a territorial age for children as they feel strongly connected with caregivers.

  • Relate things to a TV show, movie or book they love.
  • “Practice” for a new baby by getting a doll and showing them how to handle it as if it were a real baby.
  • Involve them in preparing.
    • Work on routines that will help everyone. For example, toilet training, moving from a crib to a bed, reinforcing or making adjustments to sleep schedules.
  • Let them spend “special time” with someone important to them ahead of the new member’s arrival.

School-Age Children

School-age children tend to be a bit easier in preparing for a new family member but still need reassurance and help adjusting. Remember to keep open communication and encourage questions and curiosity.

  • Explain what’s going to happen in a way they understand, including the “good” and “bad”.
  • Let them help prepare for the arrival.
  • Practice with a baby doll, or if you have a close family member/friend with an actual baby.
    • Provide positive reinforcement for them by saying things such as “You’re such a great big brother/sister.” or “I can tell you really care about ______.” or “You’re such a great helper!”
  • Let them come to the hospital as soon as possible after the baby is born so they continue to feel like a part of the growing family.

Managing Regression

Children may experience regression, “childish” behaviors, from time to time during this process of adding a new family member. For example, wanting to drink out of a bottle again, bed wetting or having accidents, or using a “baby” voice. When children regress, remember it’s normal and there’s nothing wrong with your child.

Here are a few facts and helpful tips to manage regression:

  • Children’s brains aren’t fully developed yet, so regression is a way they feel loved and cared for.
    • Attention is ATTENTION to a child’s brain. Even when a child “acts up,” they are getting attention which reinforces the idea that someone cares. They don’t understand the depth of what or why they are acting this way, but this is how they are communicating their need for love, affection and reassurance.
  • Regression typically resolves on its own, but if not, use resources to help.
    • Use books, friends, family, religious or cultural support, medical professionals and counselors.
  • Reinforce the positives. Even the smallest positives help build reassurance that they are loved and their needs will be taken care of.
  • Try to increase individual time with the child that’s struggling or be creative in finding ways to include them.

Support Each Other

There are no perfect ways to handle changing family dynamics, but these tips and tricks may make the transition smoother for everyone. Children are innately curious and thrive off love and affection. There is no right or wrong way to adjust your family dynamics as long as supporting each other with open communication and honesty is at the root.

There will be tough times, so give yourself grace. As your family grows, you all may experience some “growing pains”. When you seek to understand and support each other, you’ll all grow together.

Cassie Finkner, MA, LIMHP

Cassie Finkner, MA, LIMHP

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselor, Bryan Counseling Center

Cassie provides individual therapy to adolescents and adults. She specializes in trauma, including PTSD, major mental illness, suicidality, substance use, depression and anxiety. Cassie has been specifically trained in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI), however, utilizes a variety of different treatment modalities based upon the individuals needs to meet their treatment goals. Additional experience includes working with people encountering housing instability, poverty and trauma related to military experiences, including deployments and crisis intervention.

Cassie earned her Master of Arts in Counseling at Doane University (CACREP accredited).

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