The Journey to Big Siblinghood
Anticipating the arrival of your second child is a greatly different experience than that of expecting your first baby. Physically, subsequent pregnancies tend to be far less restful. Mentally, you’re prepared for anything, having experienced most of it the first time around: you’ve already gone through childbirth and mastered diaper changing along with all the other basics of baby care. Emotionally, you endure the rigors—and revel in the joys—of parenthood daily.
During a second pregnancy many of your concerns may still focus largely on your firstborn. Will he be jealous of the new baby? Will she regress developmentally after the baby arrives? Will the first child be helpful or harmful to the newest little one? Whether you’re about to adopt or give birth, chances are you have concerns about how your first child will react to the huge change of becoming a big brother or sister.
Although no one can predict exactly how a toddler or preschooler will respond to a new sibling, it helps to be prepared for a range of emotions. Parental attitude and communication—as well as how parents present the pending arrival—can make all the difference in how well the first child adjusts.
Expect that your child will want to touch, hug, or even carry her infant sibling. Lindy Flemke, a registered nurse who teaches hospital sibling classes, emphasizes the rules of cleanliness and safety to children who are eagerly awaiting the birth of a baby brother or sister. When teaching restraint to avoid injury, Flemke trains children ages two through seven to get Mommy or Daddy when the baby cries, rather than intervene by themselves.
Young children need to understand that they are not to remove the baby from a bassinet or crib and that they are permitted to touch the baby only with permission. In preparation, children can be given a doll or stuffed animal toy and use it to pretend they are caring for a baby. With a doll, they can learn how to hold a baby safely under the watchful guidance of an adult. Flemke also stresses the importance of hand-washing before handling a baby to avoid the spread of germs.
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