There is something unique and special about having your first baby. The nerves and excitement and taking the time to prepare and set up the nursery just right. Then, baby number two rolls around and there is a whole new set of challenges and emotions. How will you manage an energetic toddler with the demands of a newborn? Are you emotionally ready to divide your love and attention between two little ones? And the biggest question: how will my first child react to the new baby?
One of my more common requests as a maternity consultant is to work with clients on preparing an older sibling for the arrival of a new little brother or sister. The toddler period is a difficult time for your child where they are fiercely independent but are still developing their physical, emotional and language skills to be able to achieve this independence. Introducing a new sibling into the mix is a huge change for them and brings big emotions that they often don’t have the ability to fully comprehend or express which leads to regressions and meltdowns. Combine that with the demands of a newborn and a sleep-deprived Mom and Dad and you have a pretty stressful new family dynamic!
There are ways to ease this transition for your little one and for you, however. Below are some key tips to help prepare you and your older child for a new baby:
1) Talk About The New Baby
Be open with your older child. Talk to him about the new baby and what to expect when baby arrives. Ask questions about how he is feeling and what he is worried or excited about. He might not totally comprehend what is to come but the more you talk about the new baby and the changes that will take place, the more comfortable with the idea he will be when the moment arrives.
2) Go Through Old Photos
Understanding what it means to have a newborn around might be a bit of a foreign concept for your first child. Help to get her understanding and interested by going through photos of her when she was tiny. Tell her stories about what she was like, all the presents that she received, who came to visit to see her, etc. This will help her understand why the new baby is getting so much attention and help her put some images to what life with a newborn is like.
3) Avoid Unrealistic Promises
As you might remember with baby number one, things don’t always go as planned with a newborn. If you had promised a trip to the playground or an afternoon ice cream that isn’t going to pan out due to a diaper explosion or colicky baby then you are setting yourself up for a major toddler breakdown. Keep things simple as your older sibling will lean on these promises.
4) Set Aside Alone Time with Each Parent
Your little one is used to receiving your undivided attention and learning to share this with a new sibling is an adjustment that will take time. Help ease this transition by setting aside some one-on-one time with both parents each day. This can be as simple as bath time with Mom or a nightly story with Dad or it could be going out to breakfast with Dad before work/school or a hot chocolate after school with Mom. The big thing is to have a scheduled time during the day that he can look forward to and know that he will have time with you or your partner without the new baby around. It will be something that they can count on each day so be sure to put it into a schedule and stick to it!
5) Get Them Involved
Transitioning from the baby into the family into the big brother or sister can be an exciting time but doesn’t come naturally. Help your first-born get excited and interact with the new baby by embracing their role as the older sibling and becoming Mommy/Daddy’s little helper. By handing you diapers, helping to pick out clothes or helping during bath-time, your little one can be proud of helping to take care of the baby but also spend quality time with you while doing so.
6) Recognize Their Differences
Recognize that you have two unique children with two different sets of needs, personalities and feelings. Embrace and celebrate their differences and allow your older child to express their opinions and feelings, whatever they may be. Let them feel heard and celebrated for who they are and try not to constantly group them together as one.
7) Acknowledge all Emotion
Children are often disappointed when they realize that a newborn pretty much just sleeps and eats all day. They might not show affection or love for the new baby immediately and can often be jealous of the attention the new baby receives and act out in anger. Allow your child to express how they feel and acknowledge how difficult this adjustment is and the often conflicting emotions they are struggling with. It is normal for an older sibling to act out. Let them do so and support them through this as they work through their emotions.
8) Don’t Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself
While most parents have images of their children giving each other hugs and kisses, laughing and bath time and playing together, don’t expect this to happen right away. Additionally, juggling two kids, yourself, a household and life in general is a lot. We cannot be supermom all the time. Some days will be great and other days will be hard. It will take time for you and your family to find a new balance as a family of four so relax, go with the flow and you will get there!
This article was originally written for MORI and featured on their website in June 2017. View original article here.