Having another baby is so much fun. Your family is growing and you can’t wait for your little one to have a companion, someone to play with, hang out with and develop a wonderful sibling bond! But many times parents are hit with the harsh reality of the older child purposely hurting the baby, throwing more tantrums, and sometimes even vocalizing their hatred towards the new baby!
But it doesn’t have to be like that. With a little extra planning, you can make a big difference to the way your child reacts to the new baby. Being a mum of three, here are a few things I’ve learnt along the way:
Before the baby arrives:
Get the child involved right from the beginning
Right through the pregnancy keep talking about the new baby who is going to become part of the family. When you decide to start telling people, allow your child to have the joy of announcing the pregnancy. Read your child stories about new babies. ‘Berenstain Bears New Baby’ was a book I really liked and read to my older two several times before the new baby arrived. Download an app that shows you every week with pictures what’s happening with the development of the baby (I used Babycentre) and go through it with your child. Take your child along for sonographies and let them see the baby on the screen (my kids used to be so excited seeing and hearing the baby’s heart beat. It also made them feel special and important.)
Make changes well before the new baby arrives
If your older child is going to have to move out of your bed or the cot, then make that change a few months before the baby arrives, and make it a ‘big boy/girl’ thing. The child should never be made to feel that the new baby is replacing his or her place in the family. Other changes that could occur during this time are potty training, getting a new nanny, putting the child in day care, etc. Make sure all these things are done well in advance and definitely not during or immediately after the baby arrives. This may make the child feel rejected and they may also develop a resentment towards the new baby.
Develop routines and systems
If your older child is in a good routine, the adjustment for the whole family is so much easier once the baby comes. Things such as having a good 10-12 hour sleep in the night, eating and sleeping independently, bathing etc. should be habits and routines that are worked on and established for the older child well before the new baby arrives.
After the baby arrives:
Make the birth of the baby special for the older child
When our third baby was born, part of my hospital bag was gifts for my older two kids. So when they came to meet the baby, we gave them special ‘big brother’ and ‘big sister’ gifts. It also had the dual effect of them having something new to play with while mum was in hospital! My husband also took them out for a special meal the day our baby was born to celebrate with them.
Involve the child with looking after the baby
Sometimes having the older child around is more of a nuisance than a help! But as far as possible, let them try and help in whatever way they can. Even if its small things like getting a diaper or putting cream on the baby or singing to the baby, kids love to get involved. It makes them feel useful and important. Many times it may mean taking risks like letting the child hold the baby or hug the baby, but as long as you’re around and watching, its ok to let them do this. The rewards of having a child who loves the baby far outweighs the pristine hygiene we would love to maintain for our newborn!
Be patient and just love your child
Many times as parents when we have a little one, we suddenly expect the older child to grow up and act mature. But try and be mindful of the immense emotional upheaval your child is going through. Give them a lot of leeway and help them know that no matter what you love them. Try and get some special times with them through the day. Rather than asking someone to look after your older child, ask someone to look after the baby, while you spend time with your older child. Another thing I want to mention, is that though the thought of sending them away to grandparents or other relatives for a few months or even a year may seem tempting, as far as possible avoid this. I’ve known many people who as adults still hold a grudge against their parents for doing this.
And remember that sometimes no matter how well you prepare the child, your child may still struggle. I remember having to face the reality of this especially for my older daughter who struggled with the amount of my time the baby was taking and not having her mum around as much as she was used to. But its ok. It may take a few weeks, but as long as you love your child and involve your child as much as you can, your child will come around and be all the stronger and a better human being for having a younger sibling!