The news of a pregnancy brings along so many emotions for the parents and families, mainly happiness and anxiety. If you have an older child who is yet too young to understand the situation, parents worry about how the situation will affect the child. As a mother, I understand this as my elder son, A was just 22 months old when we realised we were pregnant with his brother.
Initially, we received a lot of mixed emotions from our families – happiness and excitement for the arrival of another bundle of joy, and apprehension on how A was too young for his world to be shaken up like this. Bearing in mind that I am a stay-at-home mother, my son spent every waking (and sleeping) moment with me, and this fact started to cause me a lot of stress too!
You expect a 2-3 year old child to go through a lot of changes in his or her life over the next few months:
– entering the terrible Two’s and all the emotional ups and downs that kids face at that age;
– being told that his mother can’t carry him often;
– being potty trained;
– joining nursery or playschool;
– transitioning into a toddler bed, a new room, or even a new house; and so much more.
These are just some examples of how life can change during the pregnant months, let alone how his or her world will go upside down when the baby arrives.
You can expect the tantrums to become fierce and demands for mother’s time and space to increase. We have to understand that it is mainly their inability to cope with the changes at that young age.
Here are a few ways in which I tried to make the transition easy for my first-born:
- Communicate – I decided to do what I loved doing since the day he was born – talk to him! He was, after all, my 24/7 companion. From the beginning, I spoke to him about a small baby in my tummy and as time progressed, he finally understood that something was definitely inside that expanding tummy! I would make him kiss the tummy (and baby) whenever he kissed me, to help him realise that someone equally special was in there.
- Include – When we went shopping or took out his old new-born stuff for the baby, we showed him everything and told him how this was all for a small baby. We would let him hold and play with it all, just to get a feel of things. Seeing monthly sonography pictures was also something he enjoyed.
- Separate – By this, I do not mean that you abandon your baby. I mean use your husband, family and friends to take care of your child for a few hours, so that he or she is able to handle the separation anxiety when away from you. I am blessed to be living with my in-laws and have my parents and my sister close by too. We made sure he spent more and more time with all of them, so as not to miss me too much. This was also one of the reasons we started nursery at 2.4 years for him, a few months before baby came in, to get us all settled in with the new routines and the separation.
- First Visit – I had read numerous accounts of people saying that when your older child comes to visit you at the hospital, make sure you are not holding the baby. I made sure I took my elder son in my arms first, sanitised his hands and then took baby out of the crib in our arms to introduce them. I made him kiss baby on the forehead and showed him how to delicately touch baby’s hair. This was like an extension of him kissing and touching the tummy.
- Gifts from baby for older sibling – I had bought a few puzzles, block sets, sticker books and other ‘quiet-time’ activities for him as ‘presents from the baby’ when he came into the hospital. These were great over the next few months when he could sit next to me and play during those long breast feeding sessions.
- Gifts from Visitors – All close family and friends were requested that when they came in to visit the baby, they bring a present for the elder one too. I had also bought a few extra presents for him, in case somebody had forgotten. This showed him that everyone loved him as much as they loved the new baby and they both were equally special to all of us.
- Delegate – When we were home and trying to settle in, involving my elder one with simple tasks like arranging the diaper station, dressing up baby, helping with the bath, etc. made him feel like a part of things too.
- Spreading Joy – We encouraged my elder son to distribute sweets and chocolates to friends and family, and to the needy, to announce that he was an older brother now.
It might take longer for some kids to settle in with the new way of life, but it’s much easier for kids to adapt to new situations, than adults. As a mum of two, my advice to anyone is “take one day at a time”. The second time, we know what to expect with the baby (in terms of sleepless nights, feeding struggles, colic, etc.) so we can be more relaxed and focus our time, attention and energy on both kids. I love the fact that my sons are two and a half years apart only, I love the fact that they will grown up together and they have a best friend for life in each other!
Are you expecting another child after a toddler? Have you experienced this before? how did you help your elder child /children cope with the situation? Do leave your comments below.