Preparing for and Adjusting to a New Sibling
Q: I am pregnant with my second child and due this summer. My two and a half year old daughter is very excited about the new baby, but doesn’t realize how much her life is going to change. What are some things that I can do to help her prepare for and adjust to her new baby sister?
A: You’re on the right track already, anticipating the emotional ups and downs your older child will experience. You may want to take advantage of the sibling classes recommended by your obstetrician, midwife or birthing facility, and there are a few excellent books at the end of this article to read and discuss with your older child. But her daily interaction with you is of prime importance. Here are a few suggestions that will help you and her to prepare, and then adjust, as your lives change.
Every child has intense feelings of need at times.
Every child has longings for more time and more closeness with her parents. These longings are a big part of why it’s hard to want to go to bed at night, hard to get dressed to go to day care or to Grandma’s, and why it can even be upsetting to see Mommy or Daddy talking, cuddling, or spending time on the computer or telephone! Every child needs a chance to air her feelings about wanting more, indeed, about wanting all your time and attention. It’s these feelings of need that will erupt during your last months of pregnancy, and when a new sibling arrives.
It’s these feelings, stored away and managed most of the time, that cause mischief when a new baby arrives. Your child’s storehouse of “I don’t get enough attention” feelings already has some upsets stored in it from past moments when she longed for you. You’ll want to help her reduce the amount of stored feelings she carries before the baby arrives, and help her with the new feelings that your attention for the baby causes.
With your support, your child’s feelings dissolve as she cries.
This means that you have a golden opportunity to help her when she becomes upset about separation from you. At bedtime, when you go out in the evening, or when you leave her to play with someone else as you do your housework, if she starts to cry, stop and listen to her. Keep telling her that you need to go, but keep listening to her as she cries that you should stay with her, and that she can’t live without you. These are healing tears. They release feelings that, kept stored, will make her feel desperate for your attention, and resentful of the new baby.
She needs the reassurance that you love her and the chance to cry as long as possible to drain the reservoir of sadness about you going. She can best do that with you close, telling her, “I’m going to leave, but I’ll come back. I’ll always come back to you.” Or, in the case of bedtime, “You’re safe here. I’ll be in the next room, and I’ll see you in the morning.” (See our article on the Parents Leadership Institute website, Healing the Hurt of Separation for more on this topic.)
Reprinted with the permission of Hand in Hand Parenting. © 1997-2011 Hand in Hand
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