In some ways, caring for your second baby might feel easier than beginning your journey as a first-time parent. After all, by now you’ve mastered the fine art of diaper changing and late night feedings. But having another baby in the house can certainly be a challenge. Especially when it comes to helping your first born adjust to being a big brother or big sister.
How your child reacts to sharing Mom and Dad with the little newcomer depends largely on your child’s personality and age. Toddlers often have the hardest time adjusting; they still need lots of bonding time with their parents and they aren’t old enough to understand why the new baby is getting so much attention, though it’s important to remember that even older children can get jealous of a new baby. After all, an older child has had lots of time to get used to being the center of attention.
Here are some tips to help make the transition a smooth one:
Before Baby Arrives
- Tell your child that you’re expecting a new baby when you tell friends and family. Don’t wait; it is better for your child hear the news from you directly rather than it slipping from a family friend.
- Many hospitals now offer classes to help little ones learn about becoming an older sibling. Check with your doctor and see if your hospital offers any!
- Be honest about what your child can expect when the new baby arrives. Your little one might think a new baby means a new playmate. Explain that new babies need lots of sleep and extra attention.
- Involve them in the process, simple things like letting your son or daughter help you pick out what the new baby will wear home from the hospital will help them feel important.
After Baby Arrives
- Set aside special time with your older child. Each parent should spend some one-on-one time with him or her. While carving out the time can be tough, keep in mind that even 10 or 20 minutes of uninterrupted attention goes a long way.
- Talk to your child—and really listen—about how he or she feels about the changes in your family. Helping your child put feelings into words and making sure your child understands that his or her feelings really matter will make a big difference in the communication and dynamic of your growing family.
- Have a special “big brother” or “big sister” gift to give your child when friends and family arrive with presents for the new baby.
Help your little one to understand that with a new baby in the house, he or she is now Mommy and Daddy’s special little helper. Your toddler can help pick out clothes for your new baby each morning and assist with other little things when it comes to caring for their new brother or sister. Most importantly, help your child understand that the new addition to your family is a positive change.