As the nine months draws to an end, most parents start to feel the nerves of managing one child (or more!) AND a newborn. Yes it does come with challenges, logistical craziness and plenty of work in helping your older child through, no matter what their age, but keep in mind it is still a very special time and hopefully an exciting event for your child!
The good thing is, you can start to make small changes before the baby arrives to help prepare your child for what will eventually be the ‘new’ way of life. Do talk about the pros of the little brother or sister’s arrival but remember playing cars and tea parties will be YEARS from now! Your child needs to know what will happen from day one, particularly what will affect them.
You can start by slowly introducing some of the changes below and providing pieces of information about the ‘new’ way of life…and repeat as much as they need!
- Prepare for the whole family to have a shake-up to their routine for a while. You can start talking to your child about what might change for them, such as coming to watch the baby have a bath before their bath or explaining that Mummy or Daddy might have a sleep in the daytime.
- Prepare to be breast-feeding at any time of the day, including right at your child’s bath, book or going to sleep time. You can change up any routine now by having your husband step in (or you if you don’t normally take that activity, as down the track your husband might be doing the baby settling which gives you a chance to spend time with child 1). Encourage independence in any activity that your child is close to, such as scooping their own food or taking off some of their clothes before their bath and putting it in the laundry.
- Prepare to need quiet while someone is trying to settle the baby. You can start practicing being quiet with your child, practicing for when baby arrives. Doll or teddy play is great for this or even making a game of tiptoeing to the bedroom.
- Prepare to be needed in two places at the one time. You can start making your child wait that bit longer before you get to them or getting them to set themselves up for say book time or at the dinner table. Again, think encouraging independence in any skill that your child is close to mastering!
- Prepare to be busy. You can start thinking about new routines now. This might be cooking dinners when your child sleeps/rests, to avoid super-crazy witching hour or if you need to go hard at improving your child’s sleeping habits. Reconsider any changes to your child’s life for the first little while, such as toilet training, moving to a bed, mostly as you will have less time and emotional energy to deal with these.
- Prepare for a family full of emotion from tiredness to jealousy! You can prepare your child by either talking to your child about the feelings that they might face (Trace Moroney writes a great series of books ‘When I’m feeling… kind, lonely, sad, jealous, happy, angry, scared, loved’) or prepare to give out many hugs and special time for your little one if they are too young to understand the words for these scenarios. The most important thing is to be HONEST. When you sit down and think about it, there might be few ‘pros’ for your child to have this new baby in their life so it is important not to pretend it is anything other than how your child is feeling that it is. Jealousy and loneliness COULD be on the cards but on the other hand, your child might enjoy helping out and being the big brother/sister!
- As mentioned in many of my posts, drawing is a great way to help your child talk things out whilst keeping their attention. You might do a stick figure drawing and say ‘remember when you were in your room today whilst Mummy was feeding little bubby? (drawing as you go) Did you feel jealous that Mummy wasn’t there playing with you?’ or ‘remember when Mummy couldn’t get to swimming today because she was feeding little bubby? (drawing as you go) How did you feel taking Daddy instead? (you might let them draw the smile/frown or give them options of ‘excited’, ‘sad’, ‘both’). Drawing brings past events (even from 10 minutes ago) to a concrete level for your child to think about more easily. It also lasts longer in front of them than words that come and go. And it can end up being a ‘special activity’ they get to do with Mummy or Daddy. Link here to find out more about drawing conversations with your child.
Above all, patience and understanding is really needed, which can be extremely hard when you are exhausted. You can only do your best and remember, all the first-borns in the world have had to go through the same thing! ‘You’re going to be a big brother. What do I say next?’ also has information on how/when to break the news and preparing your child for the birth.
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