Imagine how you would feel if your spouse brought home a new wife or husband with the explanation, “I love you so much. You have made such a positive difference in my life that I wanted another one like you.” That’s kind of how first children can feel with the onset of a new arrival to the family. Even we parents, longing for another child, often wonder how could we ever love another child as much as we love the first one? But we do. And we all find our place in the family. And what can initially be an adjustment for a child usually becomes a lifetime of sibling support, love and bickering, it even continues into adulthood. It’s adding the third child that requires the most parental adjustment since mom and dad must move from man-to-man defense to zone, because children now outnumber them.
Preparing for the Arrival
Preparing for the arrival of a new baby can to both joyous and exhausting for parents. Siblings may also enjoy the excitement, but can feel uncertain, confused and even anger about all the “fuss.” It’s a big change for a once only child to become a big brother or sister or for the baby of the family to no longer have the coveted baby spot. Here are a few ways to help your child feel involved in the experience and to ease the stress of a new baby:
Tell your child about the pregnancy and the new baby. You don’t want your child to overhear the news from someone else. It’s important for all age children to have time to adjust to the idea of a new baby and be involved, but nine months is a long time for a toddler. You may want to wait until your toddler can visibly see the changes in your body.
Include your child in the pregnancy, listening to the heartbeat or seeing an ultrasound, will make the experience more real.
Talk about the new baby, but phrase your comments to focus on your child. “You’re going to be a big brother when the baby comes.” “You can hand me the diapers when the baby arrives.” “What do you think about having a new baby?” Show him the new toys and let him play with them. You can always wash them later.
Attribute your physical limitations and changes in activities levels because of the pregnancy to your body and not the new baby. “Mommy can sit on the floor and play with you, but I can’t pick you up because my back hurts,” instead of “I can’t pick you up because of the baby.”
Make developmental changes regarding your child before the baby comes. If you need the crib for the new baby, move your toddler to a big boy bed because he’s a big boy and not because the baby needs it.
Regardless of the age of your child, involve him in the pregnancy and preparation for the new baby. Big Brother and Big Sister classes are available for preschool and school-age children at most hospitals. Enjoy this time with your child. It will never be quite the same again.
Gigi Schweikert is an internationally known expert in early childhood education. Gigi is the best-selling author of twelve books including the popular Winning Ways for Early Childhood Professionals book series and Prime Times: A Handbook for Excellence in Infant and Toddlers Programs. Known for her humor and practical messages, Gigi is a popular keynote speaker. Audiences say her messages are “Inspirational, encouraging and real.” Gigi lives in Hunterdon County New Jersey with her husband and four children. Teaching educators and parents to help every child succeed is Gigi’s life passion. Visit Gigi at www.gigischweikert.com.