You’ve just found out that you’re going to have a second child! While you celebrate the good news, your older child may be experiencing any of numerous emotions. She may be excited at the thought of a new playmate, or she may feel insecure and unsure; she may even be openly upset over the hullabaloo and withdraw into herself or act up.
Whatever the reaction, there are some thoughtful little things that you can do right from the start of your pregnancy to prepare your older child for the arrival of the new baby. Here are a few of them listed out for you.
1. Get excited over the news
The opposite of the adage, ‘When mom ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy,’ holds true here. Show how excited you are and how much you are looking forward to the new arrival even if you are plagued by morning sickness and mood swings. Your happiness and positive outlook are sure to be contagious and your preschooler will understand and associate them with the fact that babies can indeed be fun!
2. Chart out roles and responsibilities
Veena Raghavendran, mom to three-year-old Shradda, offers this valuable tip. “I made a picture-chart with my three-year-old to help her understand how important her role as a big sister is. The chart contained a list of things she could do before and after the baby’s birth like arranging baby’s things neatly, working the baby monitor, practising funny faces and noises to entertain the baby, picking the baby’s dress for the day and so on.” Making your child feel important and significant with her very own responsibilities towards the baby, helps in strengthening sibling bonding right from the start.
3. Promote activities that show what fun siblings are
Read storybooks that deal specifically with having a new baby at home. Watch movies that show the fun side of having siblings. Look through old picture albums along with your child. Point out pictures of yourself and your siblings doing fun stuff as children. If possible, visit friends who have newborn babies and older children. Point out to your child how tiny and helpless babies are and how important it is to take care of them.
4. Involve your child in the entire process
Whenever possible, take your little one along for your doctor visits. Privately request your doctor to tell your child during every visit what a good big brother he will make. You can even request your doctor to let your child see and hear the baby’s heartbeat during your ultrasound. Let your child ask questions about the baby and your growing tummy. Take him shopping for the baby’s clothes and allow him to choose. While picking baby names, go through the list along with your child.
5. Spend more quality time with your child
Make it clear to your child that she has a special place in your heart irrespective of the new entrant. Rope in relatives and friends to help with the baby rather than cutting short quality time with your older child. As much as possible, don’t change her existing routine.
If this entire process sounds like a lot of work, don’t lose heart! This process of preparing your preschooler beforehand will help in the long run in establishing a very close bond between the siblings and keep rivalry to a minimum.
Anitha Bennett is a freelance author who has written books for children from preschool till the preteens. She also conducts workshops for parents, teachers and children.