Parenting Q & A
Q. I am pregnant with our second child, due in the spring. We are excited and scared at the same time. Our first child will be just two years old and is used to being an only child - the center of the family. How can I help him prepare to be a big brother and adjust to the idea of sharing us with another baby?
A. Although your child is used to being the “only” child, the addition of a sibling will be one of the most important and, hopefully, one of the best changes in his short life. Although the adjustment may have some rough spots, you can help him prepare to meet his new sibling and to be a big brother. Here are several things that you can do to make this family transition smoother:
Make sure your child has well established daytime, nighttime and sleep routines. Routines provide security and predictable patterns during change for your older child.
Empower your child to be as independent as possible. It will also build his self-esteem and make him feel like a “big boy,” while giving you a break.
Let your child be a participant in the preparation for the new baby. For example, give him some limited choices while arranging the nursery, such as “should we put the crib in this corner or over by the window?” Or let him help you sort through the baby clothes and put them away in the drawers. Talk to him about the clothes . “Look how small these socks are! The baby’s feet will also be very small.”
Develop gentleness by patting and using language like ‘soft’ or ‘gentle.’ Pets or stuffed animals are a great way to demonstrate these actions and characteristics.
Finally look through your older child’s baby book with him. Reminisce about his birth, babyhood and milestones. Remind him he, too, was a baby before becoming a big boy.
There is no reason to assume that the new baby will have a negative impact on your older child. In fact, a new baby can bring added excitement into the home and special visits from grandparents and friends. Two-year-olds love the added attention are able to enjoy the moment. Remember, if you are relaxed, chances are he will be, too. It's your best guide.
Ellen Barrett, a parent educator at Heights Parent Center for the last 12 years, fields questions from parents about the daily ups and downs of parenting. If you have questions for Ellen, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.