Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Transitioning From One Child to Two

My daughter was 2 and a half years old when my son was born. She loved him to pieces-- she would hug him and hold him and say "I love my baby brudder" over and over again. Of course, this all occurred while I was still in the hospital and able to fully supervise all of their activities. Once we brought the new baby home, it was a different story.

When my husband went back to work a week after I gave birth, I remember saying I was afraid to even go to the bathroom, for fear of leaving my older toddler and my newborn baby unattended for even a minute. Because by this time, my sweet, angelic 2 and a half year old was prone to giving her baby brother a quick little smack here and there. She was downright sick of all of the attention he was getting.

Luckily the first few weeks were peppered with visitors who would help break up the routine. Always bearing gifts for the new baby, a few extra thoughtful visitors brought gifts for my 2 ½ year old as well. Opening her own little goody bag filled with sidewalk chalk, bubbles and the book "I'm a Big Sister ", my little girl happily retreated into her own little world-- for a least a few minutes.

Of course all of this wore off after a while. My daughter is 5 years old now and she simply adores her almost 3 year old little brother. They play together-- and they fight together too, but at least now he's old enough to defend himself. Still, those first few weeks 3 years ago were a bit rough for all of us, so here are a few tips for making those first few weeks at your house a little bit easier.

-- Prepare your older child for the baby's arrival. Rent a heartbeat monitor and let you child be a part of your pregnancy by letting him or her hear the baby's heartbeat. Also, show you child the baby's ultrasound pictures and let the child help pick out items for the nursery or for the baby's layette. In addition, most hospitals offer sibling preparation classes so you can enroll your child for a day of learning about what it will be like to be a big brother or a big sister.

-- Read to your child. "I'm a Big Sister" or "I'm a Big Brother'" are two books by Joanna Cole, which will help you child understand what it means to have a new baby in the house. Other recommended titles include "When I'm a Big Sister" by Bruce Lansky, "There's a Brand New Baby at our House-- and I'm the Big Brother" by Susan Ligon (there is also a "Big Sister" version available), "My New Baby" by Annie Kubler and "The New Baby" by Mercer Mayer. If you're looking for a familiar face, "Big Sister Dora" by Alison Inches features the beloved Nickelodeon TV character, Dora the Explorer, and her adventures as a big sister of her twin baby brother and sister!

-- Talk to your older child. Your child may become disillusioned when the gifts start pouring in for the new baby, so make sure that he or she understands that the new baby needs new clothes and toys, that he or she is tiny and doesn't have many things yet. Let the older child help out by opening the gifts and putting items in the baby's room.

-- Try to stay on your regular routine as much as possible. Do what you can to ensure that your older child maintains his or her regular schedule. Have someone drive him or her to preschool as usual and ask for help if you need to get you child to play dates, birthday parties, etc. Your older child will become resentful if he or she has to miss out on regularly scheduled events. Have Daddy or a family friend take your older child out for as special meal or a movie-- fun one on one time is what your older child will be craving those first few weeks.

Plan ahead and know what to expect-- it will make the transition from one child to two much easier for your entire family.

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