Expecting another child and unsure about how your other child(ren) will adapt? Material Mom Selena Quah shares her tips on how to seamlessly introduce the baby into the family.
The arrival of another kid is usually met with feelings of eager anticipation and some measure of trepidation. The two main questions asked would usually be, “How will I manage?” and “Will the kids get along?”
While the final outcome is really quite out of your control since it depends on the interaction of so many factors like personality, your post-partum state, the home environment, etc., I believe there are steps you can take to pre-empt the problem and ease into the situation better.
For me, my main concern was to ensure the kids got along with their soon-to-arrive sibling. If that could be managed, it would go a long way towards making life a lot easier. I was fortunate that my first child formed a relationship with his brother even before the delivery date, and the good feelings continued even after his brother arrived. Though my eldest son is generally of a fairly sweet nature, I do think some of the steps we took did help. When I got pregnant with my third child, I followed some of the things we did previously, and it seems to be working again. Both boys are positive about the prospect of having another sibling, and I do think they genuinely look forward to her arrival. Many parents have said to me how wonderful it is that my boys seem to be very affectionate towards the baby, often hugging and giving her (well, my belly) kisses.
So I thought I’d share some of the steps we’ve taken so that you can see if it works for you too. These are by no means miracle steps, and the results may vary depending on the personality of your child and your unique circumstances. Still, there’s no harm trying. Some of these steps are advocated by many parenting books and websites, but we’ve also discovered some on our own. A few websites have a long list of do’s and don’ts, but I’ve distilled it to the four main things you need to deal with in the lead up to your baby’s arrival.
First, relationships are the key element to manage prior to baby’s arrival. If this can be handled well, I think chances are you will experience much less sibling jealousy.
Your children and baby
I wanted very much for my children to feel like they have a bond with their baby sibling even before the birth, and I did this by doing this the best way I know how – through play!
After letting your children know you’re having a baby, encourage your children to talk to the baby regularly about anything and everything. And allow yourself to get silly and let your imagination lead the way too. Pretend to be the baby and speak to them. I use a tiny, high-pitched voice when pretending to be the baby, to the point that when I forget and speak to them in my normal voice while acting as the baby I sometimes get told, “No, Mummy, I’m talking to baby, speak in a high voice!”, or “I’m not talking to you, Mummy!” Of course they know it’s all just pretend, but it really helps with relationship building.
Sometimes we will be having dinner and one of the boys will ask, “Mei Mei (little sister in Mandarin), do you like the food?”, or if we’re outdoors, “Mei Mei, did you see the aeroplane?” These are excellent times to stretch the conversation to teach your children that babies do not know as much as they do. For example, I’ll reply, “What’s an aeroplane, Gor Gor (big brother in Mandarin)?” The boys take great pleasure in trying to explain things to baby, and it’s something you can encourage them to do after baby comes too.
Let the “baby” initiate conversation sometimes too, and always try to inject a large dose of humour and silliness. The main thing is to have fun. Having pretend conversations between my children and baby happens daily, and I think it is the key reason why they are so affectionate towards her.
Of course, temper this with realism as well. Your children must know that babies can’t actually speak when they are born, and will do lots of crying as it’s their only way to communicate in the initial days
Your children and you
This relationship is very, very important as well. While ensuring that the children form a bond with the baby, you must do everything possible to make sure the bond between you and your children remains strong. This means lots of hugs, kisses, quality time, and affirmation. The children must know that your love for them will not diminish at all with baby’s arrival. You can never say, “I love you” too much.
It is also important to talk to your children about how you will inevitably be tied up caring for baby, but tell them that you did the same for them. Read some books on what life will be like after baby arrives so they know that while it won’t always be easy, at the end of the day Mummy and Daddy loves them a lot. Make them feel important by teaching them they can contribute in meaningful ways, whether it’s getting baby a fresh diaper or giving Mummy a big loving hug.
Logistics: Before the arrival of the baby
Think ahead to identify any changes that need to be made to accommodate the baby, and implement those changes early. For example, a change in sleeping arrangements such as having your children vacate the cot, need to be done months in advance so that the link between their shift in sleeping quarters and baby’s arrival is not so stark. When kids are young, you can quite easily draw a smoke screen over this rather obvious fact. Make a grand affair of the move to a big bed so that your older child feels it’s his own special grown-up thing. Most kids tend to be excited about the move, or at the least can quite easily be convinced. Just be prepared for some nighttime escapes! But once that’s done with, you’re all set.
If you foresee that you’ll need more time with your newborn and need to stretch your older child’s stay in childcare from half to full day, do it early. Do not wait until the month before baby comes. It takes time for your child to adjust. Most certainly, do no wait until after baby comes as that could potentially be one big source of jealousy and anger – that Mummy doesn’t want me around now that baby is here
Any changes because of the baby that could potentially impact your children– from changing of car seats or even changing schools – should be done early!
When baby arrives
You have given thought to your birthing plan, but have you given thought to your childcare plan? Once you’ve settled on a plan, make sure you inform your kids. They really shouldn’t be the last to know.
Explain why you need to go to the hospital, who will be taking care of them, where they will be staying, when they will come for visits, and roughly when you will be back home again. If they have never stayed anywhere else before, arrange several sleepovers at the alternate caregiver’s house prior to your due date so that it’s not a new experience that’s suddenly sprung onto the children.
And that’s basically it! Hopefully this will help in your own preparation for the arrival of number two, or three, or …
Even if it doesn’t work for you, just wing it! After all, I’m sure you would have known from raising your first child, even the best laid plans can get derailed when children are involved. Just relax, take a deep breath, and soldier on.
Selena Quah enjoys the little things in life and hopes her children will pick up this trait from her too. She thinks kids are an excellent excuse to indulge in things she likes such as strolling through parks, doing art and craft, and baking. A dancer from young, she hopes to get back to it when the kids are older, though for now she’ll have to make do with dancing around the house while her boys wonder why Mummy is mad. You can find Selena’s blog Unlikely Lady of Leisure here.