It’s hard enough to add one baby to a family that’s previously consisted only of yourself and your partner. But adding a second child to an established family can be far harder as you have to integrate this child into your existing son or daughter’s life with minimal trauma to either side. So what can you do to make this transition easier for everyone involved?
Telling your child too early in the pregnancy or adoption process may be a poor idea in case things go wrong, but don’t wait too long either. Around the time your child has a month or two left to get used to the new order of things is a good time to break the news; this allows them time to adjust to the idea of sharing their home and family with a new child while not making it so far away that the concept is too abstract to grasp.
Buy a present for your baby to “give” to your older child. It sets your baby up as a benign presence and will provide your older child with something to do while everyone is preoccupied with settling the baby into his or her new home. It’s a good idea to make this present something your child has wanted for a long time, but try to pick something that will offer extended play opportunities so that you can count on it to distract them during those fraught first few days with baby at home.
Similarly, have your older child buy a present to give to your baby; a soft toy is a good idea. Helping to decorate the nursery or make a homemade patchwork blanket can be amazing, if your child is old enough to get involved. Make sure it is a positive experience and you could be pouring the foundations for a loving relationship between siblings!
If your child is used to spending a lot of time doing things you won’t be able to indulge in with your baby, then start cutting down on them now. If you carefully and gradually build it down your child won’t associate this with the baby; a sudden drop to nothing when your baby is born can cause serious resentment.
Buying your child, regardless of their gender, a baby doll can help them understand what is expected of a parent. It will also allow them to play as if they have a baby, which is a good way to build their imaginations and help them cope with the fact that you will have to perform specific tasks every day. When you change the baby, they can change their baby – and so on. This also serves to keep them out of your hair.
Above all, make sure you still spend time alone with your eldest. One parent can watch the baby occasionally while the other has a day out with the eldest child to ensure they know they remain a priority despite all the chaos and disorder associated with having an infant in the house!
With careful preparation, you can make the arrival of a new child a positive experience for your entire family! Congratulations and enjoy your new baby.