Saturday, March 27, 2010

Preparing your child for new sibling


THE arrival of another baby is great news to you and your spouse. To the both of you, this new addition represents more happiness and joy, but to your first child, this may bring about a lot of uncertainties.

Some children may feel abandoned now that they are no longer the centre of attention and regress to an earlier stage where they are more dependent on their parents. Others may delight in the role of an older sibling and welcome the new arrival joyously.

There is no way to tell how your child might react as he or she may be dealing with a wide range of emotions. However, as parents, you want things to run smoothly between your older child and his new younger sibling. Therefore, it is essential for you to know what you can do to maintain harmony between the siblings.

Planning ahead

Preparation is key. Your child will probably need some time to adapt to the idea that he or she is no longer the only child in the family. Also, your child will probably take a while to adjust to the changes that will occur. So, the sooner your older child knows about the arrival of his new sibling, the more time you will have to help him prepare for the new sibling. To help your child adjust, ensure that before the baby arrives, you:

·Inform him about his new sibling. The earlier you let him know, the more time you have to prepare him for the arrival of the new sibling. This will also be an excellent opportunity for you to talk to him and excite him about his new role. Encourage him to ask questions and use the questions as a guide to help you clarify his doubts.

While you may have fully prepared your older child before the birth of your new baby, his behaviour may change drastically when the baby arrives. – AFP

·Involve him in preparations to welcome the new baby. You may decorate the newborn’s room together and pick potential baby names together. Make him feel like part of the process.

Most importantly, involving him also sends the message that he is and will always be part of the family and the addition of a new baby will not “demote” his position in the family.

·Share your experience with him. Talk to your toddler about how he was when he was a baby and how proud you are of how much he has accomplished since then. You may also bring him along to your monthly check-ups. This gives him the opportunity to learn about and witness the progression of his new sibling. You would be surprised how the sound of the foetal heartbeat can excite your child and change his feelings.

·Explain to him what will happen when the new baby arrives. Let them know beforehand that you may be tired most of the time and the baby will most probably be the centre of attention because he requires extra care. Also, let him know that the baby will not do much at first except eat, sleep, and cry. Giving him a realistic idea will reduce the shock when it happens.

The arrival!

While you may have fully prepared your older child before the birth of your new baby, his behavior may change drastically when the baby arrives. This is common, as children do not know how to control their feelings or articulate their thoughts accurately yet.

Thus, when he sees that his family members are paying more attention to the new baby instead of him, he may act out in such a way that demands your notice. Don’t fret, as your child just needs some time to adjust.

·Let him be mommy’s helper. Get him involved in the care of your new arrival. For instance, ask him to hand you the diapers while you are changing the baby or keep an eye on the baby whilst you use the bathroom. His involvement will make him feel that he still matters to you.

·Ask for his opinion. Ease him into the older brother or sister role by having him help you make decisions about the baby. For example, when choosing outfits for the new baby, let him choose what colour he wants his baby brother or sister to wear.

·Listen to his feelings. Your older child will get frustrated at times, especially when you are unable to spend time with him (eg when you’re nursing your baby but he wants to play cars with you). When a situation like that occurs, acknowledge his feelings. Let him know that you are aware of his disappointment, and that you want to make it up to him later.

·Spend one-on-one time. When your baby is sleeping, spend time with your older child. In fact, let your partner or a family member take care of the baby if you need to. Spending one-on-one time will make him feel special and loved and also give you the opportunity to watch your toddler grow.

·Praise him. Shower your older child with praises each time you see him showing interest in his younger sibling or when he helps you take care of the baby. Believe it or not, praises that come with hugs and kisses can go a long way. However, while positive reinforcement is good, don’t overdo it. You do not want him to think that your love is dependent on how much he loves his younger sibling.

Don’t push the baby on him

If your child does not want to get involved with the baby, do not be alarmed. It is common for him to be feeling this way. The “ignoring the baby” phase is usually temporary. Therefore, it is best not to force your child to be involved. He will come around in time.

Undeniably, having a new member in the family will be one of the first and biggest changes in your firstborn’s young life. Not only will there be an additional person in the house, the balance and routine that your firstborn is familiar with will be disrupted. So, be patient as your little one figures out his “new” life and always remember to show him that he is loved and needed in the family.

Dr Goh Chee Leong is a psychologist. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting Programme. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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@Credits to : Peh Boon Kuan, T2

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