I was recently asked to comment on how to prepare your child for the arrival of another sib. If it's true that nothing changes the lifestyle of a couple more than the addition of a first baby, then the birth of a sibling must be just as radical for the once-upon-a-time only child. You hear stories of jealousy and parents feeling guilty about not being able to spend as much time with the older child. Know that those moments will naturally happen, and there are also things you can do to make the transition smoother.
- Keep them in the know: using language that your child would understand, let them know that mommy is prego and the family is expecting another wonderful kiddo!
- The 9-month period is a process: in the same way you'd go for your ultrasound, go through body changes, and perhaps experience morning sickness, cravings, etc, let your child know that you went through similar and/or different things when pregnant the first time. Talk about your first pregnancy and what that was like.
- Use other families as examples: talk about uncle Billy or family friend Susie and how there are x number of kids in the home and that makes them siblings.
- Refer to books: there are a ton of helpful books for children about bringing a baby home. Examples include Babies Don't Eat Pizza, I am a Big Brother, I am a Big Sister, I'm a Big Brother, My New Baby, and the classic The Berenstain Bears' New Baby.
- Talk about feelings: what is it like for your child to think about having another sibling? Use different mediums to express those feelings, be it drawing, storytelling, acting, etc. Validate all feelings, especially the ones that are hard. Share your own feelings about growing the family.
- Increase involvement: how would your child like to help decorate the baby's room? What is one or more toy(s) your child would like to put in there? Come feel the baby moving inside mommy's tummy!
- Anticipate challenges: explain that parents will be busy, sleep deprived and probably crankier, grandma will be over more, and your child won't get as much time with parents, etc. Nonetheless, it doesn't change how much your child is loved.
- Propose a tentative new routine: bedtime story might be with different adults, 1:1 time to spend with your child might vary depending on the day, etc. Talk about the non-negotiables: your child will still get fed, need to brush their teeth, go to bed...
- Go over coping skills: in non-urgent situations, and your child wants the attention of pre-occupied adults, what to do instead, for a moment? Color, build Legos, draw, play house...
Enjoy the journey, knowing that the chaos will only be for a while, until you establish a new normal...
Need more support? I love helping people through life transitions! Contact me!