Help reduce sibling rivalry and promote excitement and acceptance about the arrival of a new baby brother or sister.
Having a sibling to share the ups and downs in life is a gift that many of us want for our children. However, them forming a close bond is not always a given! But, as parents, there are ways we can try to prepare our first child or older children for the arrival of a younger sibling and help get their life-long relationship off to a good start. Here are some quick and easy tips that will help you prepare your older child(ren) and get ready yourself (and as a couple) to welcome your new member of the family.
1. Build a routine
When your newborn arrives, you will be no doubt be busy and less available both physically and emotionally, so really get to know your child now and give them your undivided attention. Slow down and try, on a daily basis, to discover one new feature or one little quirk that you have not noticed before. Take note of your child’s favourite book or cartoon character. Develop a couple of new rituals with your child (give it a name – special cuddle time or storytime with mummy). Those special moments (even 10 minutes a day) with your child will anchor them when the baby arrives, and go a long way towards helping them feel loved and secure. Remind your child often that those special times will remain the same after the baby arrives.
2. Understand your child (and your parenting style)
Use this time wisely, paying close attention to your child’s likes and dislikes. At the same time, reflect on your current parenting style, what works for you and what doesn’t. Remember that each parent’s and child’s dyad is different. Your newborn will not come with instructions but, as you have already learnt who you are as a parent from your existing child(ren), you know how your approach is working with them and are more aware of what might work with your new baby (knowing what provokes your hot buttons will help defuse many unnecessary struggles!).
3. Meet your child’s needs (while setting boundaries)
There will be times after the new baby arrives that you will feel like a bad parent for neglecting your first-born (we all do sometimes!). You can start prepping your child now. Be clear and consistent about your boundaries and expectations. At the same time, be sensitive and attuned to your child’s needs (which, at times, are linked to their stage of development). This can help reduce the desire of your little one to push boundaries in exchange for attention (negative attention is still attention in the unconscious mind of a child).
Practice with your child now. The more prepared and flexible you are in focusing on the needs of your child, the more you will be able to help him or her accept the new arrival as a gift (and not an object stealing your love and affection).
4. Build a strong partnership
What you’re going to need most is a strong alliance to weather the storm (and sleepless nights) that lie ahead. You and your partner will teach and raise your children differently and it’s a good time to discuss your strengths and needs as parents while waiting for the second one’s arrival. This is not a time to blame, but a chance to repair your relationship and share your vulnerability as partners and parents. Start looking at what you have in common in terms of goals and expectations; you will be surprised at how much you have in common despite differences in your parenting styles.
Decide what is your non-negotiable expectation for your child. If table manners are important to you, it might be time to talk and work on a united front, deepening your relationship as parents. You need your partner to be on your side to help give your older child the extra attention they will need. This is a time when both your partner and your child are most vulnerable. Your partner needs your help to feel involved, needed and loved so he can provide the love and reassurance that your first-born needs. Do it now, before sleep deprivation takes over!