This time, many of your concerns may still be largely focused on your first born. Will my child be jealous of the new baby? Will he or she regress developmentally after the baby arrives? Will my first child be helpful or will he or she cause harm to my new little one? Whether, you're about to adopt or give birth, chances are you have some worries about how your first child will react to becoming a big brother or sister.
It helps to prepare ahead of time
Although no one can predict exactly how your preschooler or school-aged child will respond to his or her new sibling, it does help to be prepared. Parental attitude, communication and presentation of the pending arrival can make the difference in the first child's adjustment.
Here are some suggestions to prepare your older child for the pending family addition.
Expect that your child will want to touch, hug or even carry his or her infant sibling. Lindy Flemke, a registered nurse, who teaches sibling classes in a hospital, stresses cleanliness and safety to children eagerly awaiting the birth of a sibling. To teach restraint in order to avoid injury, Flemke trains children ages two through seven to get Mommy or Daddy when the baby cries instead of trying to intervene themselves.
Young children need to understand not to remove the baby from the bassinet or crib and to touch the baby only with permission. Children can be given a doll or stuffed animal toy to pretend they caring for a baby. Kids can learn proper holding technique through parental guidance and practicing on their doll. Flemke also impresses on older brothers and sisters the importance of hand washing prior to handling baby to avoid the spread of germs.
Make change a good thing
Up until this point in your first child's life, he or she has had things a certain way. Keep your older child involved and informed with each step of the process. The life that your child has grown custom to will most definitely change once your new little one arrives. One key tactic is to present the baby in an extremely positive light from your older child's perspective. If your son or daughter views the baby as a threat to his or her position in the family or lifestyle, the more difficult the transition will be.
The goal can be to bestow feelings of empowerment on your child. Your attitude should be that this new baby would enhance your first child's existence. Constantly make statements to your first child such as; "you're such a lucky boy to be getting a little brother. He is really going to look up to you. When he gets older, he can play with you."
Reinforce these statements by offering concrete examples to your child of how great it will be to have a sibling. Mention things that are important to your child. For example, you could encourage your child to share toys and teach his or her siblings things like learning to walk, talk or read.
Once the baby arrives, always present the baby as an asset to the family
Don't complain (at least in front of your child) about having to change diapers or get up during the night to care for the baby. Be positive about the baby's behavior. Tell your child that babies cry sometimes because they can't talk like he or she can. Remind your child of his or her developmental accomplishments and inspire your child to take an interest and pride in the baby's milestones. Encourage a feeling that the baby is your child's baby too.
Focus on the first child
Kathleen Byrne, RN, suggests that parents should keep their first child the focal point of the transition. Byrne, a nurse educator, offers sibling classes in a hospital. The course includes a video which is presented to children ages three through nine that encourages them to explore their range of emotions they may be experiencing about the new baby.
Children who participate also draw pictures of what their new family will look like with baby. Byrne notes that children expecting a new sibling may feel excited, insecure, unsettled and angry all at the same time. Open communication and keeping children involved leads to positive feelings and anticipation.
Upon your new baby's homecoming from the hospital, present your child with a special gift. It may be helpful to keep a stashed supply of "big brother/sister" gifts around. Byrne suggests that these are handy when young children may feel left out when friends and family members bring or send presents for the new baby. These small gifts will encourage a pleasant association towards the new little one.
Make sure your first child has outside interests or activities
These may include preschool, gym classes, regular play dates or visits to Grandma's house. If your child is home all day watching Mommy tending to the baby's every need instead of focusing on him or her, resentment could development. Try to keep your child's routines and maintain special one on one time with him or her. Byrne advocates that parents leave the baby with a sitter and enjoy an outing with just your first child.
Sibling classes are available in most hospitals. Classes usually include a hospital tour so your child can know what to expect when you're in the hospital giving birth. Byrne explains that "seeing where Mom will stay overnight" will relieve insecurities. Sibling classes "give the parent something to do just for the older child to prepare for the baby," Byrne affirms.
There are a number of children's books that teach kids the joys of being a big brother or sister with colorful pictures and age appropriate language.
What's Inside by Jeanne Ashbe explains in simple terms why Mommy's tummy is getting bigger.
I'm a Big Brother (Sister) by Joanna Cole
The New Baby by Mercer Mayer illustrates to young children what to exact once the baby arrives while teaching them appropriate sibling behavior.
Adding a new baby to the family is a blessing. Maintaining a positive attitude and open dialogue with your older child will help to promote a successful transition. Trust your instincts and let your child guide you as to what he or she needs. Staying informed connected, and learning what to expect may aid the passage for your first child from being the only child to becoming a big brother or sister.