For parents who are expecting their second child, some of the preparation includes helping their first-born adjust to the new arrival. A little bit of jealousy is a perfectly normal feeling for a child to have but there are some tactics you can try to make the change easier on everyone.
Make an Expanded Family Part of Everyday Conversation
If you know you want to have more than one child, you can start discussing it long before you actually become pregnant. Praise your child when you see him being kind to another. Talk about how he'll make a great big brother one day when you see him snuggling with a stuffed animal.
But Wait to Actually Break the News
Patience is not a trait most toddlers and preschoolers have in abundance, and nine months is practically an eternity. Wait to tell your child that you are pregnant till you are visibly showing or have started other preparations like decorating a nursery.
Include Her in the Prenatal Process
Bring your child with you to prenatal appointments if possible. If not, have her help you pick out clothes, blankets, books, and toys for the new baby. Let her help decorate the nursery.
Avoid Setting Up Expectations
Telling your first child, "Now you'll have someone to play with" could prove to be disappointing since babies don't do much playing in the beginning. "It's going to be so much fun" or "I promise you're going to love him so much" also set up certain expectations that may not be met, especially at first.
Read Books About Siblings
There are some great books that will help give words to your child's feelings and prepare her for becoming the older sibling. Some of our favorites:
- I'm a Big Brother or I'm a Big Sister by Joanna Cole
- Best-Ever Big Brother or Best-Ever Big Sister by Karen Katz
- Babies Don't Eat Pizza by Dianne Danzig
- The New Baby by Mercer Mayer
- The Berenstain Bears' New Baby by Stan & Jan Berenstain
Point Out the Fun of Being a Big Kid
Ask your child if she has any toys or books that are for "babies instead of big girls" that she wants to give to her new sibling. Make new milestones (completing potty-training, starting preschool, tying shoes) a big deal and celebrate her new accomplishments.
Spend One-on-One Time Before Meeting the Baby
Unless your first-born is with you during labor and delivery, he has been apart from you for at least a few hours, maybe even for a whole day. Arrange to have your newborn in the hospital nursery or in the arms of another family member so you've got both arms available for a big hug.
Talk to your child for a few minutes first, then ask him if he's ready to meet his new baby brother or sister. You can even position your older child on your lap so the two of you can hold the new baby together.
Give Her an Important Role
Let your first-born do something special that no one else gets to do. She can be the one to introduce her new sibling to guests or sing the good-night song.
One family I knew let their first child choose the new baby's name. They ended up having seven children altogether and with each one, the youngest child got to choose the next child's name.
(If you like this tradition, you may want to have a choice of a few names to offer, or you could end up being the parent of Strawberry Elmo Rocket Monster!)
We gave my first son a doll and we brought our babies home from the hospital together. We changed their diapers at the same time, gave them sponge baths at the same time, even nursed them at the same time. Through this process, my first son learned how to care for and be very gentle with the baby.
If you have a toddler, you may find her reverting back to some behaviors that she had already outgrown, such as wanting a bottle instead of her sippy cup. She may want to sit on your lap more often or pretend to act like a baby.
Give her the snuggles and turn it into a silly game (coo at her while she makes "goo-goo ga-ga" sounds, for example), then do something only big kids can do, like build a puzzle together.
Once the novelty wears off, your first child may say things like, "She can go back now" or "I don't like him anymore." It can be tempting to say something like, "You don't mean that" or "Of course you love your brother!"
Babies can be very demanding and time-consuming, leaving your first-born feeling a little left out.