The arrival of a second child can be a major event for the whole family, and it can be particularly difficult for the first child, who has to learn to share their parents with this “intruder”. So how can you manage any jealousy that may emerge? And what are the best ways to help the older sibling to welcome the new arrival in as much as possible? Here are a few recommendations for before and after the birth, to help you teach your older child how to be excited about having a new brother or sister and how to welcome the new baby.
Before the birth
Assign your child the task of choosing a soft toy for the baby: not only will your eldest be delighted to be brought to a toy shop, but they will feel proud of the trust you are putting in them. In order to be sure that you will approve of their choice, get them to choose from three or four options that you have previously selected. They can give the present to the baby on their first trip to see them in the maternity ward.
Visit the maternity ward in advance: make a little car trip to somewhere near the maternity ward, so as to show your little one where Mummy will be going to have the baby. This will reassure them about where their Mummy is during her absence. There is no need to go into the hospital or ward (and in any case, the staff are unlikely to allow you to enter the wards), but take a walk around the area and give them a hot chocolate in a nearby café. This trip should leave them with a happy memory of the mysterious place where babies are born!
Make a timeline frieze with them: children often have difficulty with the concept of time. The months or even weeks ahead can seem like an eternity away. To help them visualise the time that is left before the baby arrives, draw a timeline frieze with them. Have them count down the weeks, marking them out day by day, with a special colour code for weekends. Your child can stick on different coloured stickers depending on your own family schedule: a colour for going back to school on Monday mornings, a different one for going to visit their grandparents on a Sunday, another for their music class on a Wednesday, perhaps something to signify the first day of Spring time, or the dates for any upcoming holidays, etc. Make sure you display the frieze in an accessible area in which your child can fill in the calendar on their own if they are old enough.
Prepare a welcome party for the baby: why not have your child bake a cake and hang a banner to celebrate Mummy’s return and to welcome the baby? As well as spending some quality time with their father, your child will feel useful, and will start to imagine the arrival of their little brother or sister as part of their future, thus mentally preparing them.