The news that you are expecting your second child may come with a flurry of congratulations and excitement, but be sure not to forget that it may be a daunting experience for your firstborn. Knowing that they are going to be a the big brother or big sister might instill some pride in your firstborn, but be sure to let them know what to expect. Communication is key in any relationship, including that between you and your firstborn.
Tell them first
Depending on the age of your firstborn, it may be difficult to gauge when or how to break the news to them. However, in deciding which age-appropriate details about the pregnancy to include, do be sure to tell your kid before you tell everyone else, lest they get a rude shock accidentally hearing from some well-meaning auntie asking them how they would like being an elder sibling.
Letting them know early on shows that you value that they know what is going on in your shared life, and that they are important to you. Even if you tell your friends to keep it a secret, a minor slip-up could have dire consequences so prevent that by informing your firstborn personally.
Let them know what to expect
Reading to them sibling-themed books could be one way to deliver the news in a palatable and understandable manner. This can prepare your firstborn mentally and emotionally for the idea of having a new person in their lives. Being read to can also be deeply relaxing and provide bonding time between the two of you.
Some books would include Little Miss, Big Sis by Amy Rosenthalwhich explores the myriad of emotions a big sister feels as she welcomes and grows to love a new sibling – from before the baby is born right through to being the big sister of a toddler or pre-schooler. This can help your firstborn adjust to the idea of being a sibling. The New Small Person by Lauren Childis another great book for older children, who might have found a routine and comfort in having things at their convenience. The book could be a way to shift the mindset of a new child being a hindrance to the acceptance that they are here to stay – that they are family.
Get them to help out
For older children, giving them small tasks and responsibilities that they can handle may help them feel included. It also shows that you trust them, from getting the diaper bag, to getting you a spoon, to washing the milk bottle – the difficulty of the task depending on your child.
Ensure that your child can perform the task with minimal supervision and help, so that they do not feel overwhelmed with the new ‘job’ being theelder child. However, beware not to peg your appreciation for them by what errands they run for you. You love them for them, not because they are new kid’s helpful older sibling.
Reassure them you love them
Sibling rivalry is an often-heard term, with the warning that your firstborn may get jealous. No matter the age of your first-born, it is extremely crucial that you express your love constantly, so that your firstborn never feels neglected in this new chapter. Even if you think that they are ‘old enough’ to understand, jealousy is a natural feeling and feelings often cannot be rationalized, even by an older and more sensible child.
Do be sure to set some one-on-one time aside for your firstborn, even after the new child is born. Have someone else take care of the baby, if only for a few hours. Your child may know that you are busier now and cannot attend to their every need all the time, but it is still a nice feeling to know that you care about them and they have not been replaced by their more attention-needing and energy-seeping sibling.
Undoubtedly, a new child brings a whole new set of challenges, but take it one step at a time as a family, and you will survive to tell the tale, and make beautiful memories together.