A year ago we discovered that for a two-year-old it's ALWAYS difficult to share, we learned that change is hard, and we learned to tailor our parenting style for two different children and their very different needs. It all started with the introduction of our youngest child - the second of two children in our family. You can say that the day he was born changed our hearts and our lives but the day we brought him home changed everything else.
I was so excited my big boy would be an older brother, and I couldn't wait for him to meet baby #2. I knew my two-year-old was not going to understand the impact that my growing baby bump would make on our house after I gave birth. When the baby did arrive it was such a joyful time, but as I suspected, it came with its challenges and amongst them, was how my oldest accepted the transition to big brotherhood.
When we found out I was expecting baby #2 I started researching the most effective ways to introduce a new child to siblings. Children are so territorial, especially when it comes to the attention they get from their parents, so when you introduce anything (or anyone) that takes that attention away, it's important to consider how the change will affect your current household dynamic. My oldest had grown accustomed to having all my time and attention. While pregnant with my second, I started working from home and I took my oldest on trips throughout the city - the zoo, museums, factory tours and festivals. We had so much fun together and while he knew I was pregnant he really didn't know what it all meant - and how could a two-year-old? I was worried big brother wouldn't be so thrilled with the idea of a baby brother when he finally understood that it meant mommy had someone else to care for or when he woke up at 2 a.m. to a crying sibling. I consulted my doctor about it, other moms who had been in my shoes, and I did a little research via parenting books and Pinterest articles.
When it was all said and done I made a list of all the things that worked for us, because in the end, the transition went great. Almost a year and a half later, they still don't share, but I have a feeling that's something I'll be dealing with most of their young lives.
Here are some of the recommendations to make it easier when you introduce a new sibling to a family:
Take your child(ren) on a tour of the hospital.
Hospitals can be scary places and when mommy and daddy go away for a couple days "to have a baby" that concept is completely foreign to most children. Think about how your mind wanders when you don't know details. You make up things in your head, facts are exaggerated and reality is distorted. Now think of the mind of a young, imaginative and impressionable child. Help them fill in the blanks. Most hospitals offer tours to expecting families. Call yours and see if its okay to bring your younger child(ren). Allow them to walk around, ask questions and become familiar with a hospital environment so that they know where you are and what is happening when you are delivering your baby.
Have the new child "bring" a gift for the other child(ren) when they are born.
After consulting our doctor, he recommended that the newest addition bring a birthing gift for his or her older siblings. This gift should be a special something that lets the older siblings know that the newest addition is someone who will have a positive and loving relationship with them. It starts everything off on the right foot and gives the older children an instantly positive perception of the baby.
Talk to your child(ren) about the new arrival.
I realize that there are
Read books about the addition of a sibling or becoming a big brother or sister.
I read to my little ones every night and after I became pregnant I started incorporating books about becoming a big brother into our reading cycle. Explaining the situation in a toddler-friendly manner helped my oldest better understand his new responsibilities as a big brother. I read him "I'm a Big Brother" by Caroline Jayne Church but there are tons of great book options for both big brothers and big sisters.
Make sure to spend quality time with the older child(ren) without the new baby.
A new baby changes a lot of things but one thing that will be most obvious to your older child(ren) is the amount of time and energy you have to devote to them. Set aside special time to spend with your older little one(s) - take them out to lunch or a movie or to the bookstore. Get them out of the house and away from all things baby. It's best to do this special time with mommy and daddy so that you continue to strengthen your relationship with them after you have more children.
Make the experience fun.
When my mom brought our oldest to the hospital he was ready for the party. Equipped with balloons and a cupcake he came for the baby's birth-day, my mom made the day a celebration. When He walked into the hospital room with a smile on his face and fully anticipating a party - the cupcake with sprinkles didn't hurt either. When we arrived home from the hospital he had made a welcome home banner and decorated the house for the babies arrival. The whole experience felt fun and exciting and it allowed my older son to be part of the occasion in a joyous way.
How many little ones do you have? How was it when you brought them home and introduced them to your other child(ren)? If you have other recommendations please feel free to share them in the comments.