The first baby is your first unique experience! The arrival of the second baby too is unique in many ways. You have the experience of pregnancy and diaper changing, so bringing up the second baby may not seem to be that stressful. But the fact is, the second baby needs more organized planning for the family, for the simple reason that there is one more (a little grown up) baby at home already, who needs equal attention! You have certainly planned for the second baby with all good intentions for the first child; but she may actually not be that positive about the new arrival. She is after all a child herself, who doesn’t like to share her possessions! The first born experiences a wide range of emotions like jealousy, curiosity, excitement, insecurity, anger, love, all at the same time. Kids cannot express their emotions verbally and so these feelings turn into either attention seeking behaviour like frequent temper tantrums, refusing food, being very demanding, or, regressive behavior like biting nails, talking like a baby, going back to the milk bottle or sipper etc. It is therefore very important for parents to positively prepare their first child emotionally to welcome the new baby.
Tips to help the elder child to adjust with the baby positively
- Reschedule your daily routine well in advance- Your once organized schedule is certainly going to turn topsy-turvy once the second baby arrives. Not just after her arrival but even before as you need more rest during pregnancy, which may be difficult with a toddler around. It is therefore better to plan the routine and activities (school, activity classes, meal time, play time etc.) of the first child accordingly, as soon as you get pregnant. Try to plan the first child’s routine in such a way, that she can maintain the same routine even after the arrival of the second baby. Kids never like drastic and sudden changes in their routine and may associate these with the second baby, leading to a feeling of being displaced and anger for the new one.
- Cultivate the relationship of the first child with your partner- The father can play a great role in helping the first child. Cultivate the bond between the first child and your partner throughout your pregnancy. This will not only spare you the time for rest and the extra energy you require for the infant, but also help the elder child emotionally as she will keep getting the same amount of attention from the father as before the arrival of the second baby.
- Communicate openly with the child- Talk to her about the arrival of a sibling- how she will get a friend in the form of a brother or sister, how the little baby is growing in you, what all funny things they can do together etc. Answer all her queries about the new baby in a happy positive way.
- Involve your first child- To develop positive feelings and anticipation involve your first child in all the preparations you make for the new arrival. Let her think of a name for the new baby and select clothes and other items for her little brother or sister. Take her along to your pre natal visit to the doctor and let her watch the ultrasound. This will develop curiosity for the new arrival. When your baby has arrived, the elder child can help by bringing the diaper or informing you when the baby wakes up. She will feel responsible.
- Learning to care through play- Gift the first child a doll or a stuffed toy and make a game of caring for the toy like a mother. Show your interest in the game by teaching her to feed the doll at meal time, changing its bed, carrying it carefully in the arms etc. Such play will keep her engaged, pretending to be like you, when you care for the new baby and will also teach her to be gentle and caring with the little one.
- Big sister or brother- The elder child feels happy by knowing how she will be superior to the little ones in many ways. She can teach her to walk, read, eat etc. and all the responsibilities of a grown up, which kids like to pretend. But remember responsibilities are not attractive always. So talk about all the cool things too which she can do as an elder sibling, like playing with friends or having ice cream all by herself. While its fine to emphasize the advantages of being elder, its also important to reassure him that he will always be your dear baby too, and hug and cuddle him like little baby.
- Avoid comments that can create negative feelings for the sibling- Telling the child that he will have to share all his toys, books etc. with the sibling or saying things like “if you don’t eat, the baby will eat it” will create resentment for the baby. The elder child will then consider the little sister or brother as someone to compete with, which we certainly do not want.
- Engage her in creative and outdoor activities- This will keep her distracted and also give you time for the little one and rest.
- Keep a stock of gifts for the elder child- Gift your first born with her favorite toy on the arrival of the second baby. Ask your friends and relatives too to do the same. This will help the older child to feel like theirs indeed something to celebrate. Otherwise she may feel left out, when friends and family members bring or send presents only for the new baby.
- Take time out just for your elder child- Take out time to be with the elder child alone. Play and read to her, or plan an outing just with the elder child, leaving the baby with some relative or baby sitter. Let her enjoy special time with one parent daily. She needs to be secure in your love to accept the new baby.
- Avoid changes that require the child to be away from you for the first time- Kids need time to get into a routine and make it a habit. Certain changes in their life like starting school are in itself a big change from home to the outside world. Avoid such changes which require separation from the mother for the fist time, as she will almost certainly associate this to be because of the new baby!
- Try not to make too many changes in the older child’s routine.
- Show how special the older child is- Emphasize the older child’s specialness by going through his baby pictures and talking about what a wonderful baby he was and what a wonderful boy he is now. Assure him of your unlimited love and affection for him.
Parents have to balance the physical and emotional needs of both the children. If you are happy and positive, your elder child too will take everything positively. Give her time and give her love. Its only a temporary phase! With time and your unflinching love, they begin loving and protecting their little sibling!