The excitement of having a new family member has to be balanced with the disruption it will cause to your existing children and the larger family dynamic. Nikita Camacho helps you to navigate things with your existing children.
Having a baby is a joy for parents. But once your little one gains their independence, often the question starts floating around: “When are you having another one?”
Extending your brood will change the family dynamics naturally as you try to adapt your daily routine to accommodate the needs of your newborn.
Of course, mothers are concerned about their firstborn’s behaviour and the possible impact of introducing a new sibling to the already established family structure – it’s a challenge many families have to navigate.
How to introduce the idea of a baby
Whether you are already pregnant or are trying to conceive, have an age-appropriate conversation with your firstborn about babies and keep an eye on their reaction.
The older your child is, the better they will be able to communicate their ideas.
Broach the subject with sensitivity. Ask your child, “How would you feel if mommy had another baby?” Their reaction will tell you if they are interested in discussing it.
“Mommy, how do you have a baby?”
Curious minds may lead to curious questions. Instead of ignoring your child’s questions, talk about it with them in an age-appropriate way.
It is important to keep the channels of communication open with your child in order to assist with the transition from an only child to an oldest child. By communicating, you will be able to introduce your newly-appointed oldest child to their new sibling without many hiccups.
Remember that any developmental transitions for a child can be stressful, so it is your responsibility to steer your child through this period.
Hello little one
Once you have announced your pregnancy, try to include your firstborn to the whole journey. Create a little promotion package for your child, a special delivery from their new soon-to-be sibling. This creates excitement around the new baby.
In the big sibling promotion package include a scan of the baby to show your child what is happening in mommy’s tummy, gifts for your child to enjoy with your baby such as a small bubble machine, chalk to draw rainbows, or new crayons to draw pictures for the nursery.
Later in the pregnancy, where it is permitted, take your child to one of your one of your gynaecologist check-ups. Seeing the sonar and hearing the baby’s heartbeat can help your child visualise their new sibling.
Create excitement to watch a 4D video of the new baby, by making it into a mini-movie night. Make your child’s favourite snacks for a movie, like popcorn, so that your firstborn feels included in the moment.
Pregnancy tracking apps have impressive videos on the development of a baby, including the size of the baby and interesting facts. Share these notifications with your child, as they may find it fascinating to imagine the baby growing from the size of a blueberry to a watermelon.
Why not include household items in a monthly update to your eldest child? In these monthly updates, write a letter from the baby to your child, which might stir up interest in your child writing back. Introduce challenges too, such as nappy-changing challenges with mom, dad and sibling, to see who can change the nappy the fastest to prepare for the new baby.
Be careful about the promotion
As the time passes for the new sibling to arrive, be aware of your choice of words to help curb any resentment or misunderstanding. Do not tell your child, “You’re going to be a big sister/brother, so you can’t behave like this. By doing so, you may cause some resentment towards the baby. Your child may associate the baby with a person who is curbing or changing their lives.
Schedule one-on-one quality time with your child, where all your attention is focused on them. Do something that is fun and completely unrelated to the baby. This helps to reinforce the importance of your child’s feelings to show that despite all the talk and excitement surrounding the baby, they are important. Your relationship with them is important.
Once the baby arrives, try to schedule time out for one-on-one quality time. It will be beneficial for you as a parent too to help nurture the development of your relationship with your child. As hard as it is for your child to get used to a pending sibling, you may feel anxiety surrounding the nature of your relationship with your oldest child.
New baby – now what?
With the build-up to the baby’s birth, your oldest child may not feel threatened or stressed until they see their new sibling.
Create a roster for home on who will take responsibility for certain tasks. Put together a big sibling list that you and your child have discussed beforehand. Ask them what they’d like to do for their new sibling. It can be a simple task of fetching a nappy when the baby needs a nappy change or selecting a bath toy for bath-time. Simple tasks will have a positive effect on your child.
Also note that should your child not feel eager to participate, do not force the matter. Recognise their feelings, and discuss it with them should they want to communicate.
As time passes with a new sibling the stress and anxiety of the new baby will dissipate, as you learn to juggle life as a bigger family.