Category: Pregnancy & Baby
Even as adults, we fret about how this new baby will change our family and our lives. A recent conversation with a mother expecting her second child highlighted the mother’s anxiety about the impact a new baby would have on her first born, but also what impact a new baby would have on the existing bond between herself and her firstborn. If we as adults worry about the unknowns associated with enlarging our families, imagine what free-floating anxiety might be present for the young child who has limited experience with such significant life-changing events.
Here are some suggestions that can help parents navigate this new territory. Let’s start with communication. Give your young child information about the baby in ways that are easy to understand and most importantly send a message that they can ask questions. Make books about babies and families available. There are wonderful books about animals and their babies as well, that young children love.
Let them know that someday the new baby will learn to walk and talk and play, but that right now the baby needs to eat and sleep… a lot. While some children, often depending on their age, relish the role of helper, some children do not, or at least not all the time. Don‘t push it. Children are naturally altruistic and typically rise to the occasion when it isn’t demanded of them. If your child verbalizes negative thoughts about the baby, acknowledge that sometimes siblings feel that way, but that those feelings will change.
Rather than scold or shame him, she set about to spend more one on one time with him without baby Annie. His talk of stashing the baby somewhere soon subsided. That amusing anecdote aside, yes, making sure that your first born gets your undivided attention at times is important. However, sometimes getting alone time with a sibling is impossible, so parents need to be creative about how they juggle time spent with a young child and the new baby.
Madeline tried to plan activities for her four-year-old daughter Eva to occupy herself with while Madeline nursed the new baby. Every attempt to send off daughter Eva to busy herself with something else backfired and produced whining and resistance. As always, when one tactic isn’t working, I suggested that Madeline try something new. Instead of doing what young Eva perceived as being pushed away, I proposed that Madeline let Eva know that she was about to feed the baby and that she would like it if Eva could come sit with her and together they could make up a song or a story. Eva embraced this idea enthusiastically and rather than the feedings be a time of tension between mother and older child; it became a time they both looked forward to. Sometimes Eva even chose to continue her play or choose something else to do during this time, but Madeline welcomed her presence if she decided to stick close by. This new strategy changed the dynamic and gave Eva choices.
The next thing to focus on is consistency. Just as new parents need extra support and self-care during this transition time, young children need to have their needs met in a loving and consistent way during this adjustment period. Always challenging and never more so than when parents of newborns are sleep deprived, maintaining routines and clear boundaries become paramount. Sarah, the mother of three-year-old Ethan, was beside herself. She kept saying “it is as if my happy-go-lucky son has disappeared since the baby arrived! How do I get him back”?
In talking about some of the acting-out that Ethan was doing, Sarah pointed out that his schedule had gone bonkers. He definitely wasn’t getting enough sleep, and both parents and the nanny were a bit lax about limit setting. There was a tendency to “not say no, or say no and not mean it.” Their thinking was “poor Ethan; he’s having such a tough time dealing with the new baby.” It turns out that Ethan, more than ever, needed to know that the adults in his world were in charge and that they knew what was best for him. Providing clear expectations in a kind and firm voice are precisely what he needed, not the other way around. With proper rest and loving limits, Ethan‘s sunny disposition reemerged as the family of three settled into being a family of four.
Like any of life’s changes, having a second child brings challenges. But it is important to remember that expanding your family will be a gift that enriches the lives of everyone involved. Feelings of doubt, for you and your first born, may arise, but these feelings are normal and temporary. As I assured the young mother who worried about her connection to her first-born, she need not worry. Having a baby join the family was the perfect way to demonstrate that humans have an infinite amount of love to give and that it was actually another way to strengthen the ties that bind her entire family together.
Thanks to Gay Cioffi for sharing her blog!
Award-winning educator Gay Cioffi has worked in the field of Early Childhood Education for over four decades. She is the creator of the wisely informative website littlefolksbigquestions.com. Check it out!
How do you tell your only child that you’re expecting a baby?
Before answering this question, I always begin by asking a parent to imagine what it would be like if their spouse or partner made an announcement one day, out of the blue, that went something like this:
“I have exciting news. You are a wonderful spouse, and I love you very much. But, I have decided for our family that it would be incredible if we got another spouse to live with us and join our family, it is going to be so great. And, you will be the special “first” spouse who gets to teach this new spouse everything you know. You are going to love it!”
Most of us would say, “really… seriously?”
This is basically how the idea of a new baby can come across to an only child. Of course, this news should be shared joyfully; however, I am suggesting that parents be mindful of the magnitude of the changes it will bring to the family dynamic and the questions it may raise for the firstborn.
You’ve read the books, the blogs, and every piece of parenting advice out there. You know what’s going on when it comes to newborn care. But even though it’s perfectly possible to learn the basics beforehand, when you get to real-world mommy-ing, sometimes things don’t look or feel like you expected. Check out the surprising stuff no one tells you about parenting a newborn.
Boo! It’s almost Halloween, and your kiddo is getting ready for a ghoulishly good time. They’re a bit young for the Exorcist kind of fun, but they’re totally into friendly ghosts, good witches, adorably fuzzy black cats, and anything else that screams “Halloween!” without being threatening. While you’re getting into your fave Stephen King novel, your tot needs something tamer. And that’s why we’ve got these low-fright Halloween reads for you!
Naming a baby — or a pet, fictional character or video game avatar — is a very personal process. What matters most is that you find one that resonates with some deep part of your soul. But that doesn’t mean that seeking it has to be a solitary act.
And so here’s our question of the week: Who’s in your Name Squad? Who do you throw your name ideas at? Who do you discuss possibilities with? Hash out pitfalls involving your last name or a tricky ancestral namesake?
For many prospective parents, the Number One member of their Squad is a romantic partner or a co-parent, usually the only other person with final veto power. But there are a lot of other possible collaborators: Your own parents or in-laws, your siblings, close friends, even neighbors.
People who are planning on raising a baby alone might have a completely different setup. Not to mention all of you out there who are obsessed with names even though there’s no baby on the horizon at all. Who do you chat about names with?
And regardless of who’s in your squad, how do you collaborate? Group text? Facebook thread? We hope the Nameberry forums and links are a big part of the process, no matter what!