I Asked For A Bike Not A Baby
I Asked For A Bike Not A Baby
Your vision of family might be a bunch, or a few, or 2 kids running around laughing, playing, going to the park, vacations, lovely breakfasts, holidays. Ahhhh. Your child's idea of family is, um, well... EXACTLY HOW IT IS NOW!!!!!! While a new baby is often a gift, a welcome or much desired addition for a parent; To the child that is presently living with you, it may not be such a festive treat. Your child probably likes the way things are now and they will be quick to notice how the family starts to change once a new baby's arrival gets announced. Maybe mommy is sick or tired. There may be lots of talk about things to come or what needs to be bought for the new baby leaving the “Old Baby” possibly feeling a bit left out.
Your child might be thinking.
“I am right here. You can buy things for me! I need things,”
So what can parents do to soften the blow of the impending arrival of a new sibling? First of all, realize that changing the family dynamic can be extremely traumatic to a child. Their life has been lived one way and now it is changing. Change is HARD! You know it. I know it. Kids know it. Second, try to see it this way: If you have a cupcake and you are asked to share half with someone else, you now have less cupcake. A child can see love in this way too, as something that is limited. There is only so much to go around and if a new baby comes they will take some of that parent love and leave less for child #1. We, as grownups, know that love is limitless, but remember kids are not grown ups and cannot be reasoned into seeing things the way that we see them. So now what? Are you doomed to feelings of guilt and exhaustion trying to create a perfect family transition? NO WAY. It will be difficult, but there are a few things that you can do to make the transition to a bigger family go a bit more smoothly.
There is a lot to do when a new baby is on the way; Like getting the baby furniture back out or acquiring new items, decorating the room, buying clothes, thinking of names. No need to leave your child out of it all. Enlist their help in picking out the decor or colors or name. By the way, just because your child makes a suggestion does not mean that you must use it. You do not have to name your baby Elmo and have a green, orange, and black polka dot room because your child came up with that, oh so, creative suggestion. Pick one color that they chose and perhaps find a blanket, doll, or picture using said color. You can put their baby name choices on a list. A child could also create art to hang in the babies room. Just including a child can make them feel that the baby is a family event not a mommy and daddy event.
The crib, blanket, high chair, toy; Did they at one time belong to child #1? Unwittingly, parents tend to overlook, how a child feels when their belongings are being used by someone else. A child might have grown out of the object, but it is still theirs and the child may be very upset when it is given away to someone else to use. Yes, even if they have not looked at or used it in forever. Just ask permission to use your child's things for the baby. (You may have bought the crib or chair or blanket but they have been using it for the past few years.)
As the big day gets closer, be sure to share the plan of action with your child/children. Some plans to express could be:
- Where will your child stay while you are giving birth?
- Will they continue to go to school while you are giving birth and recovering?
- Will they have the food that they like where they are staying? (Yes, that is REALLY important.)
- Will your child be able to bring comfort items to where they will be staying?
- Let them know what things will be the same while the baby is being born. Teachers, lunches, school trips, books to be read.....
The more information that you give to your child about the birthing day and the like (not information about you necessarily, but more about your child and their world) the more comfortable he/she will be while you are away and in the days leading up to the birth.
“Don't hug the baby so hard. Don't feed the baby that. Babies can’t do that. STOP!” After a baby is born, kids find that there are a lot of new rules that they are expected to know, even if they had not been told yet what they are. Before the baby joins the family let your child/children know what they can do with the newborn, which at first thought may not seem like a whole lot. Notice parents, I said tell your kids what they CAN do, NOT what they CAN’T do with the baby. “DON’T DO”s are confusing. Ok so your child cannot hit, or bite, or play ball with, or squeeze too hard (whatever that means), or..... It might be difficult, but find things that the younger folks in the house CAN do with the new bundle. For example they can touch softly with 2 fingers, they can kiss on the hand, foot, or top of the head. They can read to the baby, color “with” the baby. They can pick clothes out for the baby, because as big kids they are really good at picking out clothes (mismatch clothing is a worthy sacrifice for family harmony). They can tell the baby funny family stories, or traditions, or help feed. There are many things that can be done with the baby.
“Nothing will change honey. Everything will be the same. There will be just more of us to love and to love you. It will be great.” You know that the previous statement sounds good, and it sounds just like what a parent should say, and it sounds so wonderfully reassuring, and IT IS A BIG FAT LIE!!! Oh, and when your kid finds out that you have lied, you will be in a world of trouble. They will be angry in ways that you do not want to think that your sweet angel could be angry. And they will let you know just how mad that they are. So what to do?? Tell your kids that you will be so tired and things will totally suck for them like it did for you (maybe) when your little sister or brother came and no one talked to you anymore and you had to give away all of your old things and....??? Well, sort of. Kids are tougher than we think that they are and they do, in the long run, appreciate the honesty. Do not wait expectantly for a “Thank you for your honesty parents” or flowers. What you will get is a kid ready for what is really to come and your thanks will be in the form of fewer tantrums. Let your child know that you will be tired and that you may have a little less time to do the things that they may want to do. You might be really busy because babies cannot do anything for themselves. Let your child know that babies can be loud and do not make great playmates at first because they cannot do all that much in the beginning. Reassure them that you will love them just as much as you do right now. Let your child know that if they are feeling left out they can come and talk to you about it. They can tell you any feelings that they are having. You may not want to hear all that they have to say about the baby, but do it anyway.
Maybe your friends have told you, or you have seen it first hand, perhaps a teacher at your child's school gave you the heads up. What could I be speaking of? REGRESSION! The bedwetting, passy wanting, whining, crying, crawling, and baby talk. Your “big kid” begins to turn into a baby. It can drive a parent batty. So why are these kids doing these insane things? Kids are smart. They do what they have to do in order to get what they need. If that means using kind words, helping out, throwing a tantrum, making wrong choices, or acting like the new baby, well they will try it. Jump into your child's tiny shoes and see the situation from their view. This new THING that can’t do anything, and cries, and poos, and crawls, is what everyone is cooing over. While everyone used to get so excited by each of my independent milestones, now they just take them for granted and expect even more. It’s not fun to be big. No one likes you anymore. They only like that helpless, oozing, crying THING. What happened to me being the baby? That was only like 9 or so months ago when everyone was still fawning all over me, telling me how cute I am. Hmmm. Interesting, right? So what would you do if you were wearin’ those tiny shoes? Act like the attention getting, crying, helpless, oozing, tiny THING right? I would. So are you doomed to now have 2 infants? NO WAY! First of all, ignore what you can.
“But my kid is making me crazy with all of the crawling and whining.” You say.
Though it is hard to believe (and I have not mastered this 100% either) we control our reactions to things. Now, I am not talking about major life catastrophes, but the smaller everyday annoyances that come along. That rude bank teller, your boss forgetting your name AGAIN, your significant other doing that thing that drives you nuts, your 5 year old acting like an infant... Take a breath and remember that you do not have to be bothered. Try to ignore the behavior and even leave the room. If a behavior does not get the desired effect, your child will move onto another plan.
There is nothing wrong with having your child take responsibility for themselves and their actions. There are a lot of life lessons to be learned when we have to clean up the messes that we make. If your child begins to have accidents all of a sudden (the wetting ones, not the poopy ones) have them find new clothes and change themselves. No need to get angry. Remember, anger and yelling are forms of attention and embarrassing or belittling your child are never good ways to get a message across. Help with what they cannot do such as buttons and zippers and then go on with the day without mention of it. Perhaps, up the number of times there is a bathroom break in the day. If its the whining that gets your goat, simply tell your child that you do not understand what they are trying to communicate and that you are truly interested and will be ready to hear what they have to say when they can use a calmer, more quiet voice. You can also acknowledge the behavior head on “It seems like it would be fun to be a baby again, huh?” See where your child then takes you. See what they have to say. Perhaps they need to talk some feelings out. You know your child. Pick what you feel works best and if plan A does not work, try something else. Your child will also appreciate their new grown up role if being older was more enticing. Give some “big kid” privileges such as a later bedtime, 15 minutes will not hurt much, but it will make a world of difference to your child. Regression.... Fun stuff.
“I hate the baby. I am going to throw it away and everything will be just like it was before.”
This sounds like a very frightening statement, does it not? Well unless your child has a history of extreme violence, you really do not have too much to worry about. Think about how many times you have said that you were going to “kill” someone or “kick the @#$% out of someone.” You didn't really do it, nor would you have. You were just really upset. So is your kid. Things were going just fine for them and then WHAM, their world changes. Your child might have a variety of feelings and they may all show up on the same day. They may love the baby and think it’s cute. Then they may be sad and miss those times when you could just up and head to the park. Then they may get mad because the baby won’t stop crying and you won’t put the movie in that they want or read a book to them. The one thing to keep in mind is that punishment does not make the anger go away, it just makes the child push it down deeper and get angry at you for not understanding. So what can you do when your child is getting angry about the baby? Just listen. There is no need to talk, just listen. Let them know that you will be there for them; that you will listen to what they have to say and that you want to hear about what they are feeling. Let them draw a picture focusing on how they feel. Tell them to run as fast as they are upset. Let your child know that you are hearing them, “You don't like the baby right now.” “You feel left out.” “You sound sad.” I know that I do not like when people tell me what not to feel. “I hate Amy. I can’t believe she did that.” “Oh you don't hate Amy. She has been your best friend since college.” I don’t want to hear that. Likely neither does your child. Children need a chance to vent, just as we big people do.
A few bits and pieces to help you get through this time:
- Your child does not care if “Ben” is a great big brother and that you want them to be more like “Ben.”
- Your child does not sympathize with your exhaustion so do not expect them too. “Babies are a lot of work. We are so very tired so we can’t play with you.” Your child is not old enough to think outside of themselves and empathize with what you are feeling. Do not make that an expectation of yours.
- Give definites. “When I am done feeding the baby I will read to you.” “In 10 minutes I will be ready to play.”
- Get help from friends and family. Have them take the baby so that your “big-kid” gets their time or have them take your “big-kid” out to do something special.
- Do not forget through the pregnancy and new babydom that your “big-kid” has class trips, plays, birthday parties, sporting events, and the like. It is easy to forget the every day stuff when the house is adjusting to someone new, but those activities are important to your “big-kid”.
Many of us have survived being the big sibling and your children will too. The key to survival is understanding that having a baby is a huge life event. It is to you and it is to your child. Navigating through this change involves acknowledging that your perspective as parents wanting to expand your family, may differ from a smaller and younger member who might be just fine with the status quo. You may get very involved in the upcoming event and the new life that a baby brings, but try to remind yourself that there is another person who lives in the house who still has softball, and art class, and ballet. Another person who used to be the center of attention and now has to share the spotlight. A person who was not consulted (not that they should be) on this momentous family change. Your child is going through a large adjustment and they have no idea what is going to happen next. That’s difficult for us as adults to deal with imagine it at 3, 4, 5, 6....