From One to Two: Preparing Older Children and You for a 2nd Child
The sibling relationship is likely to be the longest lasting relationship that your child will have, but making that transition from one child to two, isn't always easy. Not only can it be challenging for the older child, but having another baby can also put stress on the parental relationship. Preparing yourselves and your child for the next baby can be very helpful in easing the transition.
Normal things to expect are parental conflicts, increase in stress and workload, ambivalence and/or hostility from the first child. Not all effects of a second child are negative, but the negative aspects are usually the hardest to deal with, so below are some strategies in preparing you and your child for what may come.
Preparing the Parents:
The birth of a second child can sometimes begin the most difficult year in a couple's relationship, therefore working on the parental relationship can have a positive results on parenting. Communication is the key to avoiding conflict.
Here are some questions to ask each other before your second baby is born:
- What is your vision of the division of labor?
- How should we handle it if our expectations aren't met?
- What has worked well for us, as parents, so far?
- What has been stressful about our teamwork?
- How can we prepare for a new baby?
- What causes us stress with our first child?
Every change requires a loss. Think about what you might lose and talk to your partner about your concerns (time together, sex, sleep, personal time, etc.)
Preparing the Child:
Although there are many things that you can do to prepare the older child for a sibling, the child's personality has the greatest effect on the reaction to the new baby. Also, his/her developmental stage can really effect how he/she reacts to the baby sister/brother.
Here are some things to try that may ease the transistion:
- Read sibling books together
- Play baby doll games
- Teach older children the do's and don'ts with the new baby
- Maintain scheduling consistency as much as possible
- Encourage questions
- Describe where they will go and who will watch them during the birth
- Encourage involvement in preparations
- Embrace resistance and regression
- Carve out along time
- Don't make promises that you can't keep.
When children are making the transition into the role of big brother/sister, they need to know that their emotional needs are taken care of. They need to feel included, respected, important, accepted, and secure. Also, avoid overt favoritism, treat each fairly, honor the children's difference, avoid comparisons and labeling them, and don't assume that all conflict is bad.
Having a second child can be very stressful on the family during which a lot of adjustments occur, but it also a very joyous time. So, prepare yourselves and your child for the wonderful addition to your family.
Find out more:
Free webinar on sibling adjustment.
Beyond One, Jennifer Bingham
How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children, Gerald Newmark