As I have mentioned numerous times over the past couple of weeks, I am a dad for a second time. My daughter, Summer Violet, was born on July 14. One of the most common questions I have heard over the past couple of weeks is how my oldest daughter is doing and how is she adjusting to the new baby. After all, for nearly 5 years, she has been the baby in the family and, as an only child, probably has been a bit more spoiled than she should be. And, to be honest, I had concerns when my wife first got pregnant. Sure, she seemed enthused about having a baby sister. But, I also knew that opinion could change pretty fast. However, I will say that transition from only child to big sister has been much better than expected and I feel that is the direct result of a few simple steps we took to make things easier. If you have a child and are expecting another, I would suggest following this advice.
First, be upfront with your child about what to expect. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard parents tell their child nothing will change when the baby arrives. That’s just not true. Yes, you’ll still love your oldest as much as you always did. But, at least for the first few months, having a baby in the house can turn everyone’s lives upside down.
In the weeks leading up to her sister arriving, I took a few minutes each night to discuss and remind my oldest what it would mean. I explained to her that, even though she was just as important to us as her new sister, the baby would end up getting priority at times. If the baby was eating, for example, she might have to wait on her lunch. Or, if my wife was out of the house, she might have to wait for me to take her outside to play.
Some other things I warned her about was her sister needing to sleep a lot and how babies sometimes don’t know their days from their nights so her mother and I might be less energetic some days.
Knowing what to expect beforehand seemed to help her.
Since they aren’t the baby any more, let them do more for themselves. One thing I’ve started doing with my daughter is teaching her how to make easy meals. For example, she likes corn dogs and I’ve been walking her through making one in the microwave. I explained to her that, since she wasn’t the baby any more, I was going to treat her like a big girl and she loves it. Once she gets the hang of that, it’ll also help her mom during the day since she can make her own lunch rather than having to wait.
I’ve also been giving her a longer leash with other things; such as trusting her to brush her teeth and get ready for bed on her own rather than checking in on her all the time.
Let them be involved with taking care of the baby. Obviously, the amount they can help is going to be based on their age. For example, our daughter isn’t old enough to feed her sister or change a diaper. But, we found she likes being in the room during diaper changes so she can hand us a clean diaper or a wipe. She also loves helping when her little sister gets a bath.
This involvement makes your child feel like they are part of their new sibling’s life too. Just make sure to thank them for their help so they feel needed.
Make time for just your oldest. After the baby is born, you’ll obviously have to include the new child in the majority of your activities; shopping, family events, etc. But, it’s important to remember your oldest child is going to be used to having you to themselves and, regardless of what I mentioned above, there is always going to be some jealousy.
I usually try to get my oldest (who is a daddy’s girl) outside to play a couple times each week while her sister is inside with my wife. We also are making plans to go to the circus next month. Her sister is staying with my parents that day and it’ll be just the three of us.
There is still some jealousy but the transition is definitely going much smoother for her and us because of these simple steps.