Typically, life gets easier when there are more of something. When two people living together are sharing a car and then purchase another one, everyone can get where they need to without inconveniencing the other. If children are fighting over a toy, getting one for each of them can put an end to the fighting. However, going from one child to two can be a major adjustment. We’ve come up with a few suggestions to help with the transition.
Our first tip is a simple one: each child is an individual, so remember to treat them that way. If one of them is always hearing, Your brother/sister is so good at [insert activity here], why aren’t you? all you are sowing is resentment and feelings of inadequacy. And if you are reading this blog, that obviously is not your goal. So accept the fact that no two people approach a situation the same way, nor do they have the same capabilities or preferences, and treat your kids accordingly.
Another thing we’d like to point out is a mistake that many parents make. Don’t change too many things right before the baby is born, even if your child seems totally OK with it. It can, and likely will, backfire on you. Sure you need the crib for the baby, but how would you feel if someone was taking away the only bed you’ve ever known because of some stupid baby? You can unintentionally be planting the seeds of hostility. Make any transitions early. Treat these situations like an accomplishment on your child’s behalf and not as if they have anything to do with the baby. For example, move your older child out of the crib because they have grown so much that they need more room to be comfortable, not because the baby needs the crib. Make necessary changes enough in advance or after the baby is born so that they don’t seem like the baby’s fault.
Our next point is harder, but even more crucial to help children adjust to a baby in the house. You have to find time to reassure your child that they are still important to you. When they ask you for something and you can’t do it because you are changing a diaper or feeding the baby, don’t say that the baby needs you more at that moment. Tell your child exactly when you will be able to do as they request, especially if it something that you used to do quickly before. No child wants to hear, I can’t do this for you right now because I am busy with the baby. Instead, you can say simple things like, I would be happy to put this movie on for you as soon as I am done changing your sister. This way, your child can be reassured that you will attend to their needs as well. It is important to actually follow through with what you promise in order for this strategy to be effective. Make an effort to spend some one on one time with your older child, whether it be while another adult watches the baby or during naptime. They will be comforted to have your undivided attention, even if it is only for a little bit at a time.
The last point we want to make is to have your older child participate in the baby’s life. This suggestion might be hard to follow through on depending on your older child’s age, but it will definitely be worth it. You are providing the child with an opportunity to be included in this huge family change. Maybe they can help make a bottle or hold the baby under close supervision. They can be the official diaper-getter. Maybe they can help pick out the paint color for the nursery, or select the outfit baby will wear on the trip home from the hospital. If they have the ability, they can read a story or sing their favorite song to the baby. The possibilities are endless. You know your child best, so think of something age and skill appropriate that he or she would be proud to do. Show them how the baby looks up to them and depends on them for something, and you set the stage for a lifetime of mentoring and love.
This is not, by any means, a complete list. But hopefully you will find these suggestions helpful and a good starting point for you and your children.