There’s nothing quite as joyous as bringing home a baby, but it can shift the family dynamic, especially if you already have a first child at home.
With a been-there-done-that mentality as you welcome the arrival of the second child, you might know what to expect for the most part — except for that one wildcard: your older child.
Bringing a newborn is a little different the second time around. With your first child, you were focused on recovering from childbirth and figuring out how to care for a baby. With the second baby, you’re likely to wonder how your older child will react to having a new sibling — and how you’re going to meet both of their needs. It might take a little longer for some kids to adjust. However, with the correct guidance, everything falls into place. Here are a few things to understand:
When should you break the news?
As soon as possible. For you wouldn’t want the guests or outsiders to walk up to your child and say, “Aren’t you excited about having a new baby brother or sister?”
Now, once you have broken the big news, you’ll most likely have several months to prepare your child for a new sibling.
Start by talking to your older child about the arrival of his or her new sibling. Show them your growing abdomen. Make them kiss the tummy to realize there is something as special as them inside it. Remind them that the baby will be born at the hospital and when they come home they will live at your house. Explain to them that the baby will eat, sleep and cry most of the time. Talk about how you are going to love the baby and how you will still love them just as much.
How much detail is important?
Let the child be inquisitive and ask you a ton of questions about the second born child. Answer all of them with patience. Remember that their questions are ultimately going to be your guide and you are building the foundation for your child’s faith and belief.
Is it just a mother’s job?
A father is equally responsible for the growth of a child. It becomes a lot easier if he starts to put in some extra time with the first child before the new baby is born. If the father and the first-born have already carved out extra time and have some special things that they are doing together on a regular basis, it will lessen the shock when baby number two is born. This is important since the mother will be in physical recovery and will need to focus on the new baby a lot when he/she arrive.
How to get the older child excited?
Read storybooks which talk about siblings and second born child. Look at the older child’s baby pictures together and tell them the story of their birth. Showing them the monthly sonography pictures might be enjoyable too.
Point out to babies when you go out and say, “Look at that baby! We’re getting a baby like that soon!” to help them kind of put two and two together and remind them what is coming soon.
Ask him or her to accompany you for shopping. Let them pick out new clothes or toys for the baby. Many kids want to help take care of the new baby as well. Though that “help” may mean that each task takes longer, it can give an older child a chance to interact with the baby in a positive way. In the end, if your child expresses no interest in the baby, don’t be alarmed and don’t force it. It can take time. The trick is to remain calm in the winds of change.
How to make the older child feel comfortable when the new baby is born?
Consider letting your child visit you in the hospital as soon as possible after the baby is born, ideally when no other visitors are around — this helps reinforce the birth of the second born child as an intimate family event. Emphasize your joy at seeing him, rather than your preoccupation with the new baby. Then let him sit and hold the baby, if possible. Make them kiss the newborn. This may be an extension of kissing the tummy. Additionally, encourage your child’s connection to the newborn. Let them feel the ownership. Refer the newborn as “our baby”, “your brother”, “your sister”.
How to make the older child a part of the celebration?
Consider giving your older child a gift that’s from the baby, such as a T-shirt that says “Big Brother” or “Big Sister”. Spend time together while the baby is sleeping and celebrate the joy their way by doing things he/she enjoys. If you’re taking pictures or videos, include your older child. Take pictures or videos of him or her alone, too.
In a nutshell, even though it’s a little scary and overwhelming, having two kids is amazing and watching them become each other’s best friends will melt your heart and make it all worth it.