You have one child, and you are preparing to bring a second new baby into your home. There are many things you can do to prepare your first child for the new arrival. Good preparation can help to reduce stress, conflict and competition
Preparing a child for the arrival of a sibling is a good idea. Depending upon the age of the older child, you can choose how soon you want to start this preparation. If it is a very young child, less than five years, you do not want to start talking before they have noticed your pregnancy. Young children can’t understand the idea of “In six months you will have a baby sister.”
But if your child has noticed, or is aware of the preparations, and has a curiosity, by all means, include them in the positive aspects of preparation. Use inclusive words like “We’re having a new baby coming to the family” rather than “My baby” say “Our baby.” Getting the child involved in decisions and preparations can be fun as long as your child seems to enjoy this.
Remember that your current child may have mixed feelings about a newcomer. Be patient with this process, as jealousy is natural and normal. All children want to have their parents all to themselves, and may be nervous about change. Assure them that they are loved, and even show them their happy baby pictures, and talk about how happy you were to have them come into your lives.
In the three months before and after the arrival of the second new baby, try not to make too many changes in the first child’s important routines. Try to keep happy bedtime rituals the same. If possible do not physically displace the first child, unless the child is happy and excited about “growing up” to a new room. Do explain the reasons for any changes that are being made, so that the child understands why things are happening. Maintaining routines are important for your first child to feel safe in the presence of impending changes.
Talk about the game plan for the birth day. Where will mother be going? How long will she be gone? Will the child be able to visit in the hospital? Who will take care of the child while the parents are gone? Ask the child what questions they have, and try your best to answer them.
The first time the older child sees the new baby, if the child is young, it might be a good idea to have someone else hold the baby so that mother can hug the older child, and they can look at the new baby together. If the child is interested, include them in activities of basic care for the new baby, but never be dependent on an older child to provide essential care. You don’t want the older child to feel that they have lost a parent – and that he or she is also burdened with the baby’s care.
As soon as you can, carve out one-to-one time with the older child for the routines he or she enjoys and is used to having, such as bedtime stories or other connected time. Often there is a honeymoon period where having a new baby is fun and exciting, but it can turn into a host of other feelings if there is a lot of stress around the house, the baby is crying, and the mother is not available for the older child.
Be aware that negative feelings such as resentment, anger, jealousy, may soon emerge for the older child. Encourage them to express these feelings verbally to the parent, not in actions that might hurt or frighten the second new baby. It is a good sign if the older child feels safe enough to express these feelings to the adult. Do not suppress this, as doing so could mean that these feelings go into hiding, and are expressed when you are not looking. If possible redirect the energy, with assuring words such as “I love you very much, and I always will.”
It is important to realize that the older child may be feeling a variety of feelings which are confusing, such as hurt from lack of attention, anger at having to share time, and shame for feeling the desire to get rid of the new baby. You can empathize with these feelings, which are very real, while at the same time have a zero tolerance for any actions that might hurt or frighten the new baby.
Never leave the second new baby alone or unattended with a young child. Anything could happen, either on purpose or by accident, and this sets a terrible dynamic in place that is hard to recover from.
You and your older child need a variety of calming solutions, to be able to restore a sense of well-being quickly if emotions and tempers rise. Work on developing these before the second new baby arrives. It could be something as simple as “Let’s sing that song together,” or “Let’s make cookies,” or anything where the older child gets your full, loving attention.
Remember, this is a process. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this problem is as old as time. Be patient with yourself and with your child. Whatever the problem, a dose of laughter, or love, or silliness can often soothe the troubled soul.
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