helping your child prepare for a new baby
One of the most worrisome parts of having a second baby is how your firstborn will react when the new babe comes.
When my first child became a big brother at age 3, I witnessed the unsettling transformation of my mellow, easygoing son into an angry, sullen, and volatile boy who was scowling in many of the photos we took for at least a month thereafter!
At the time, I didn't know how to cope with this at all.
I'm embarrassed to say that most of my attempts to heal this emotional rift hinged on shame and blame at the time:
"You're supposed to feel happy that you have a sister!" (note - feelings aren’t supposed to be anything … because feelings are subjective!)
"Why are you so angry?"
"What do you have against the baby?"
"I thought you said you wanted a sister!"
None of that was remotely helpful in shifting his behavior or feelings toward his new sister.
In all likelihood, it probably intensified his feelings of separation, abandonment, and anger toward me for awhile.
A toddler or young child's entire outlook on life can be summed up in one simple question:
"Am I loved?"
....and a very wise woman once shared a secret of the ages with me:
TIME is the most crucial measure of how loved, how safe, how attached to his parents a child feels.
While you're expecting, it can be easy to get caught up in the energy of anticipation, preparation...
Your older child may look content, but privately be worried:
"What will it mean when this *baby* they keep talking about is here? They're already so busy!"
Any shift in their parents' attention, any minor hiccup in mom's emotional equilibrium ... children are acutely aware of it.
Your child may even be aware that something new is going on before you've announced you're pregnant!
Even if your child was initially really excited about having a sibling, as the pregnancy progresses, it's especially crucial to keep a focus on your older child.
Otherwise, they may be having some big, heavy feelings hiding underneath a calm facade - or start acting out in unhelpful ways.
In these cases it's especially good to make sure you're addressing the deeper emotional root of the behavior, instead of just addressing the unpleasant behaviors on the surface.
Just spending some extra time with them at bedtime, to linger for a few minutes and listen to what tales they may spin for you, as sleep overtakes them.
This is a great window of opportunity to introduce storytelling to your child. I'm not talking about reading books - although that is undoubtedly important - but about freeform, impromptu, oral storytelling.
You can follow a pre-existing structure or format, make up and use the same characters each time, or just make it all up on the fly.
Storytelling can be a great way to begin preparing your youngest child for his or her journey to becoming an older sibling.
You can even tell the story of your older child’s birth in the form of a fairytale or fable, while you're waiting for your new baby to arrive!
It doesn't take more than a few extra minutes in your family's bedtime routine, or even in the car every day, to involve your child in storytelling.
Storytelling is an excellent and time-honored way to deeply connect with your child and help them process tricky emotions and feelings.
I personally found that through storytelling, my children were free to explore their emotions in a non-direct (read: less overwhelming) way, and it was a great, open-ended way to really spend TIME with them in deep, loving connection - both before and after the birth of a new sibling!
Do you plan to tell birth stories to your child?
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