How to take care of your first-born when expecting your second child
Created by Divya Marwaha Updated on Dec 31, 2013
“No, I don’t want a younger brother or sister”. This declaration from my 5-year old sent me into a state of shock. When I received my pregnancy test-report, it was one of the happiest days of my life, but I didn’t foresee the reaction of my first-born coming. This was something least expected by me- rather I thought that she would share the joy and excitement about the upcoming arrival of her sibling. I thought to myself, “Such a reaction was perhaps the earliest sign of sibling rivalry, starting even before the birth of my second child.” The situation seemed far more challenging than any others I had faced previously in my life as a parent and I was in doldrums on how shall I tackle it.
For parents, whose first child is in his/her early years, the adjustments are mostly logistical, like bathing, feeding and putting the child to sleep besides nurturing the second one in the womb. It is an added responsibility during the second pregnancy, compared to the time when one is pregnant with her first child.
For a young child, it is also about emotional security, as she tries to comprehend the influence of an additional family member on her life. At the same time, it is important for the parents to reassure the elder sibling that this won’t make any difference in their love towards her.
As parents, we need to understand that a child needs our reassurance to handle such a situation. What seems like an occasion to celebrate for the family could be a cause of fear and apprehension for the child - the fear of losing her special place in the family as the younger one arrives. To be able to cope up with the emotional turmoil, a child will need all the love and assurance that her parents can give.
The elder child may experience feelings of jealousy, excitement, irritability, even resentment, which might show up in the form of misbehavior, tantrums, disinterest in food and lack of sleep. The thought of having to share the love and attention of her parents with someone else can cause behavioral issues, some of them being completely new for the parents, which they may have never seen before.
There are times that the elder sibling may not show signs of welcoming the new baby, which can be a bit unnerving for the parents. I have myself gone through some trying times during my second pregnancy. Here are some things that helped me deal with the situation.
1. Keeping the elder sibling occupied and involved works. Try to include her in the preparations for the arrival of the new family member through activities like shopping for the baby and decorating the baby’s room.
2. Reinforce the role of the child as the elder brother/sister in the family and share with her reasons of joy and pride in this important role of hers. You may set a few small responsibilities for her like getting a diaper, picking up clothes for the baby or watching the baby when you are busy tending to other chores. All this may also be practiced in the form of a role-play with a doll or a soft toy.
3. You may take her to the community park everyday where she may meet children who have younger siblings.
4. In case the elder sibling is not toilet trained, start working on toilet training the elder child. You may also want to have someone help you look after the child post-delivery. You can rely on the grandparents, or a close cousin.
5. Even after the baby has arrived, you need to find some time exclusively with the older sibling and spend quality time with her. Children notice subtle changes and any change in your behavior or attention may not go unnoticed.
Things that can be avoided
1. Try not to impose your happiness over the child. It could make her uncomfortable and apprehensive. You need to make the child realize the significance of this event and she may take some time to adjust, so be calm and patient.
2. Make sure the child does not feel ignored as it may send negative signals to her. Through the pregnancy, you may reserve some exclusive time for the older sibling, playing, watching a movie or reading. You may have a picnic in your garden if you are not up to taking her out.
3. Do not make your pregnancy or the new baby the center of your life all the time. You may be tempted to discuss about the baby with friends and family every time you meet them, but it may make the elder sibling feel ignored and left-out.
4. Try not to lose your patience with the child, however tired or restless you might feel. Since the mother might be dealing with physical discomfort, a father’s role becomes all the more important during these times.
5. Avoid any negligence towards taking good care of your own self post-delivery.
Be confident in your ability to handle the situation, as you have experience on your side the second time. Lots of love, attention and patience can help you have a smooth sail.
| Jan 10, 2014
Thanks Anurima, loving both your children equally is something that comes to you naturally as a parent..... you just have to follow your instincts
| Jan 10, 2014
Very well written Divya. It is very important to pay equal attention to both the children. Great tips!
| Jan 09, 2014
Thanks uma... and enjoy your precious moments of motherhood
| Jan 09, 2014
I completely agree with what divya has written! I had my second daughter after only fifteen months of my first! Very challenging it is, to balance! However this happiness is also unique!
| Jan 04, 2014
thanks for the appreciation and i always look forward to suggestions from my fellow parents, shikha. These are very useful ones, indeed.
| Jan 04, 2014
Beautiful and from the heart, again. Looking forward to more from you Divya.
| Dec 31, 2013
Awesome write up!I would like to add on things to do: u cud ask the child to think about a list of names s/he wud like to give to her brother or sister. Things to be avoided: one should not talk about the child is expected to behave maturely as they will b the older one thereby shd b d responsible one. this will take away all excitement.