Expanding your family from one child to two is a big adjustment for all family members, particularly your first child who doesn’t yet realise how things might change!
Here are 6 tips on how to best prepare your first child for this big change and how to make it a positive experience, rather than one where your firstborn feels jealous, left out or threatened.
1. Read books – There are several children’s books available, dedicated to this topic. Some that come to mind are ‘My new Baby’ and ‘There’s a House Inside My Mummy’. You can buy these, or borrow them from the library. Make time to sit down with your child and discuss with them what this means. Encourage them to ask questions about the new baby and most of all, make these story times/discussion times unrushed and relaxed.
2. Shop together – Shopping for new baby items with your first child, will help them to feel included and part of the decision-making. Giving your child some kind of choice over what to buy for the new baby will help them to feel important and empowered. This could be as simple as letting them choose the colour of a new blanket, or letting them choose a new baby toy. Your child will remember helping to make these important decisions with you, and it will ease the anxiety about the event.
3. Talk about the new baby – Talking with your firstborn often and positively, will help them to get used to the idea and prompt them to ask questions they may have. Many children can have anxiety about this big change and might think it means they’re no longer as important, or that the new baby is something to be feared or threatened by. You can talk to them about what babies need, what babies typically do, and how we care for them.
4. Involve them (before AND after) – Involving your child in decisions before baby comes (such as letting them choose items at the shops, and perhaps helping to set up baby’s new sleep space), as well as after baby arrives, will help your child to adjust. When baby does arrive, there are always things your child can do to ‘help’. This could be helping to bath the baby – gently washing their body, gathering equipment ready – towels, nappies etc., or it could be playing with baby, singing songs to them to help them to sleep, ‘organising’ their nappy pile, helping to hang the clean clothes, or even passing mum items she needs while she’s breastfeeding (water, cloths, a snack).
5. One on One time – This can be tricky when a new baby arrives, but if there are two parents in the household, it’s important that your child still gets one on one time with their parents at some stage. This might be reduced compared to time before baby arrived, and that’s why it’s so important to keep them involved in things happening for baby, but your child will still benefit from one on one time to make them feel important and listened to. It will also reduce feelings of jealousy if they are getting those needs met.
6. They’re Important – Your firstborn is now (or will be) a big brother or big sister! That’s a super important role and they should be aware of that! Nobody else can fill that role except them and so they have a very important job to do! You can talk them through what that will look like as your baby grows – going to school together, taking care of their sibling, and growing up together – sharing toys, sharing space, having a best bud at home with them! They may not see it now, and that whole concept might seem so foreign to them at this early stage, but it’s important they feel important for the role they are about to play. You could ask them about all the things they already know and have learned, and make them realise they now have to teach that little baby all that they know! Kids love teaching other kids and sharing their knowledge, so making them feel important by letting them know that baby is there to learn from them is a great place to start.
Welcoming a new baby into the household is an exciting time, but it can be a difficult time for firstborn children. Hopefully, these tips have helped.