With the birth of your firstborn, you are reborn as a parent. You learn from your mistakes and you take pride in your creation. Then one day you decide you need some more lessons as a parent and you choose to have a second child. And lessons there will be.
Taking care of a newborn as well as a firstborn who once had all your attention can be challenging. When you plan a second one, it is natural for you to worry about your firstborn’s reaction. How will she adjust, will she love the new baby and so on. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to help your firstborn adjust to a new little member:
Break the news: Don’t hide the good news. Give your firstborn time to prepare for the arrival of another loved one. Get them excited. Tell them they will have someone more to love, to take care of and to play with.
Don’t expect the worst: Go with the flow. See how your child reacts to the news. It may be apprehension, confusion, disinterest or just bubbling excitement. Take it from there. However, some parents in their paranoia expose their child to the possibility of a conflict that accompanies the arrival of a sibling. The child may not have even felt or thought about such a conflict in the first place. So if you are not stressed about it, it is likely your child won’t be either.
Create a connection: When the baby starts kicking, let your firstborn feel it. At 24 weeks, tell your child that she can talk to the baby in the belly and once the baby comes out he will recognise his sister’s voice. Once the baby arrives, tell your elder one how the new baby loves to watch her and is happy to see her.
Involve your firstborn: Your child can go shopping with you and choose things for the coming baby. When the baby arrives, let the elder one choose the baby’s clothes or fetch the diaper. Ask your child’s preference from the potential baby names. Let her feel important. However don’t impose any chore as it could prove counterproductive.
Foster friendships: Encourage your child to make at least one close friend. It will give her an exercise in dealing with another child and help her prepare for a new relationship with the new baby. The friend could also, unwittingly, turn out to be pillar of support for you and your elder whilst you are busy taking care of your newborn.
Enlighten your child: Tell your child that the new baby needs a lot of help and will depend on mummy papa and the elder sibling for everything. The baby will not be a playmate for sometime as he will be too small. Prepare your elder for the eventuality of the baby being in your arms quite a lot as he will need a lot of attention. When the baby arrives, explain to your firstborn how she has to be gentle with the baby. If your child has interesting questions like how the baby got in the tummy, there is no need to over explain. Keep it short and simple.
Alleviate fears and insecurities: Ask your child about how they feel about the baby. Listen to them. If your child feels threatened and fears that the new baby will take away all of the attention, allay her insecurities. Be honest with her about how the new baby will require more time but that mummy papa will always love her. It is important to do so in order to ensure a healthy relationship between the siblings.
Don’t be a constant referee: Once the younger one grows up, there will be arguments and fights. It isn’t necessary to interfere in every battle, unless you see potential danger. Avoid taking sides as it could lead to resentment. Let them resolve their fights themselves. It is a skill that siblings have the privilege to acquire early in life. So let them figure it out.
Don’t compare or label: One child is calm and popular while the other is disruptive and a go-getter. These are labels and comparisons that children don’t forget. Labelling only limits what they think of themselves and comparisons can create envy and unhealthy competition or resentment. Request others to not label them either. It’s important to not colour their opinions of themselves and of the other sibling.
Make them feel special: Carve out time for each of your child individually. More often than not, one of the siblings ends up doing activities that the other one is doing. An exclusive time with each child ensures they get your undivided attention and can indulge in activities they love.
Praise cooperation: Praise them when they resolve a conflict on their own and behave well. This will motivate them to behave in a cooperative manner.
Expect a lot of arguments and complaints but also a lot of love, laughter and bonding. Having a sibling ensures that a child never feels lonely, learns to resolve conflicts and perceives other’s needs. You might feel like you are going a little crazy as you raise your two bundles of energy but it will be worth all the effort.