Becoming A Big Brother Or Sister

September 10, 2014 Published by

With the news that Prince George will soon become a big brother, sibling rivalry, ideal age gaps between siblings and how to prepare children for the arrival of a new baby are all hot topics.  Dr Amanda Gummer, combines her theoretical knowledge with first hand experience of having two under two and encourages parents to take a fresh look at the issue of siblings.

As my grandmother said, it doesn’t matter when they arrive, it’s always a bit of a shock and there’s no ideal age gap.  Let us all agree that families come in all shapes and sizes and that there are advantages and challenges in all families.  However, preparation for the new arrival is important, especially when you already have children in the family.

Preparation for the arrival of a new baby.

Young children live very much in the moment.  Talking to them about events that are going to happen months ahead won’t make any difference to how well they accept the baby.  I would avoid asking children whether they would like a baby brother or sister as this suggests to the child that there is a choice.  I know that young children are now influencing all sorts of decisions that have been traditionally made by the adults – where to go on holiday, what to eat for dinner, even what car to buy, but if you are asking a young child to help decide whether you should have any more children then you need to have a good look at your family dynamics and put the adults back in charge of the family life.

Asking a child Prince Georgeabout his views on a young child can be risky business – if he expresses a strong preference for a particular gender, or worse, says he doesn’t like babies and doesn’t want any brothers or sisters, you’re in a lot trickier position than if you had not raised the subject.

Encourage friends with babies to come round and observe how your toddler reacts to them.  Make sure you praise kind behaviour and explain how babies need to be treated.  This gives you an opportunity to identify and address any particular issues that may arise before the birth.

Try to make any changes to your child’s routine as far in advance of the baby arriving as possible so he doesn’t associate the change (e.g. moving bedrooms, starting childcare) with the new baby.

As the due date gets closer and as the pregnancy bump becomes obvious, it is wise to start introducing the idea that mummy is growing another baby in her tummy.  Talk to your child and explain that this is how he grew and that all babies come from their mummy’s tummies. Play with games that involve animal parents and babies

A new baby doll for the toddler can help him/her feel more involved and grown up.  It’s good to plan exciting things to do for when the baby arrives so that the arrival of your new baby is seen as a positive thing, but don’t make it all about the new baby.  Make sure the toddler feels valued and you are and will continue to be as interested in him as before.

Bringing baby home.

It can be difficult to predict how things will be once the baby arrives and comes home but having some ideas of common situations up your sleeve can help everyone feel a bit more in control.

One of the best things that can happen when you bring a new baby home is that your toddler isn’t overly bothered by the baby and is more interested in having fun with other family members.  This gives you some time to bond with your new baby and recover from the birth without needing to worry about your older child/children.  So don’t worry if your toddler isn’t particularly interested in the new baby, they will be big parts of each other’s lives for the next few decades so a slow start isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Photo credit: Marie Claire

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This post was written by Amanda Gummer

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