Even though my son is almost seven, I'm still prepping him hard for the birth of my second in September. While the age gap is wider than most siblings, and while he might be a bit more mature to process the arrival of a sister, and manage it without jealousy or regression (which are completely normal), there's still lots of communication and reassurance needed.
For example, I'm reminding him how much I love him, how much space in my heart and capacity I have for another child, and how he might fit in and teach his sister All The Awesome Things.
He's also old enough that I can show him scan pictures and explain the size of the baby each week, compared with a fruit/vegetable (gotta love pregnancy sites that make this possible), and I also chat about what it was like being pregnant with him, and how his birth went.
The most I can do is prepare as best as I can, and hope for the best, while anticipating that anything could happen. If you're in a similar boat and expecting or second, or know someone who is, here is some advice from play-based educational programme MySmartKid on how to prepare your firstborn for a new baby.
- Being sensitive to the different feelings is important. All feelings are allowed, valid and welcome!
- Acknowledge (without judging) and talk about a child’s feelings. Sometimes just the acknowledging is enough to help the older sibling feel heard and understood.
- Talk to your child about the situation. Engage in their inner fantasy and imagination by asking questions about the baby to come. For example, what they think the baby will be like? What the baby might do? (For example, cry, scream laugh, play, drink) What the baby might look like? What the child would like the baby to be like/or do.
- Your child may think that the baby will be born and immediately be able to play on the swings with them but may not understand that babies at first just sleep, cry and be fed!
- Help them to practise being a big sister/brother through pretend play and helps to process the impending change. For example, give a child a pram and doll and let them push the baby in the pram-
- Read books about having a new sibling. There are many out there!
- When the baby is born, let your child read books to the baby and change a nappy or help with bathing.
What is very essential is to still and always have special time alone with the older sibling(s). Make a date with your child. For example, when baby is asleep, go for an ice cream or a walk alone without the baby. Ask your partner/nanny/adult to baby sit for half an hour. Try and keep this time consistent.
For example, once a week your child knows that on a Thursday at 4pm its special time with mom. Or 7pm at night after the baby is asleep mom and elder sibling read a book together. Then your eldest child knows that you can still hold them in mind and keep a special place in your heart for them even though you have to attend to a baby most of the time.
MySmartKid is a play-based educational programme for kids between birth and the age of six. It focuses on early childhood development (ECD) under the important categories of Wellbeing, Identity, Concepts, Creativity, Communication and My World.
The programme aims to cut through the clutter of toys, information and well-meaning "advice" that overwhelm many new and expectant parents.Each stage-appropriate box has toys, activities and a parent guide compiled by experts. Each programme costs R345 per child every two months, and delivery is free in South Africa.