Extending the family is an exciting decision, but not one that can be entered lightly. There are many factors to consider when trying for baby number two, including things such as finances, space, and work commitments. One other major factor that comes into planning for the next bundle of joy is how the growing child already in the home will cope.
Going from one child to two is an exciting journey, but it is a journey that needs to be all-inclusive. No matter what age baby number one is, whether a toddler or a preschooler, they need to be aware and involved in the decision making to make the family bigger. A sibling, after all, is going to change everything about their world.
There are many things that parents can do to make the transition from an only child to a big brother or sister easy, smooth, and filled with excitement, rather than trepidation. Taking these five tips into account can make your firstborn child cope a lot better with the thought of a new sibling and make it something special for them.
1. Use external material
Words are the first port of call in preparing a child to become a sibling and talking about it is essential. However, there is more than can be done than just having conversations. Reading books about siblings and watching movies with your child can be a great way to enhance their imagination and really picture what is going to happen. These can also be reassuring to help your child realise they aren’t alone in the range of emotions they are experiencing.
2. Don’t let it become a mystery
The worst thing you can do, in a bid to protect the feelings of your firstborn child, is keep them safeguarded from what’s going on. Children are much more perceptive than you may think, so your firstborn is going to see your belly growing, the nursery being repainted, and all those other changes. Fill them in on the details and keep everything open. Secrets are never a good foundation for life.
3. Teach them how to love
One thing that will really make a big difference is bringing your child in on the journey together. Give them a newborn doll or teddy or toy of some sort to be responsible for. Teach them the things that you are going to do with the newborn baby, such as changing diapers and feeding from a bottle. If your firstborn has someone to love and care for, they will feel more proud and understanding of the care you need to provide for the newborn. This helps to avoid feelings of jealousy.
4. Create a helper
Something that children love more than we realise are rules and responsibilities. Your firstborn will feel much more included, valued, and part of the journey if they are helping you along. Let them make you a sandwich or pour a glass of water for you. Get their input on where something should go in the nursery. Ask their opinion about things for the baby. Use encouragement words such as ‘what a big help you are!’ or ‘thank you so much for doing that for us!’. This will make your child feel important and useful, rather than redundant on the journey.
5. Teach them about the belly
Of course, your firstborn is going to notice that mom’s belly is a whole lot bigger than it used to be. Don’t keep this a mystery for them. Use this time as a teaching tool for your firstborn, helping them to understand that they grew inside there as well. Teach them about how the baby receives food and nutrients through the umbilical cord. This can be a learning moment and a biology lesson. They might not understand it all, but what they will realise is that the belly isn’t a burden that gets in the way, but rather something really important.
All in all, bringing a sibling into the world of your firstborn child is a big step. It is not something to take for granted and assume that your child will be blissfully happy with the news of sharing their parents. Rather, be prepared for the emotional swings to come with the news. Help your child process their emotions and understand that it is ok to be unsure of the unknown. By making sure this is a journey you’re all involved in, your firstborn child will come to understand that structure, relationships, and emotional changes are all part of living.