I see this all the time. My friends announce so joyfully “I’m Pregnant!”, “We are Pregnant!”, “I’m having Another Baby!” Whoooo!!!!…? Is always the expected answer…? Right? Except, I have a lot of kids. I am well experienced with the song and dance that comes next. I usually am not excited. I am sad. I look at the ‘expected’ big brother or sister playing with my kids and if it’s the second sibling to come… I give the new growing family ‘a look’. Then… This conversation happens. It usually goes something like this…
“Soo… How’s lil Johnny or Jenny handling the news of being a big brother or sister?”
The parents or mom starts to beam, “oh, so excited… Blah blah blah” (my thoughts are, yeah ok… I hope this person takes my advice better than the last… But they never do)
All parents, all people… Have to occasionally learn things in their own time. Nothing wrong with learning your own lessons, that’s how we grow and change and evolve into better people. It doesn’t mean as my friend or family, that I don’t love you or want to protect you by giving you what I have learned in my own experience, either.
So… I say, “How are you preparing KID for the change?”
Usually by the time the second-trimester hits and I see parents start making This mistake. “We want to spend More time with KID because when a sibling arrives they will get less attention.” However, while this is true… Spending all this extra time and then cutting them off works to actually create Tons and Tons of extra separation anxiety in the child. Even if you are planning to adopt… This can be a big mistake. Then you spend extra time (often longer than 9months with adoption) and can see a big behavior shift too.
Then with a step or half siblings the “gimme gimme” attitude is popular with kids who feel a new added kid isn’t blood, so is the “everything’s mine!” Now you used to be more present than ever before (all the bonding you insisted on with the new older sibling during pregnancy) and you are expecting more detachment quite frivolously. It’s almost mean. It can cause tons of resentment and anger in the older sibling towards the mother and the new baby. When anger isn’t an issue, you also see regression.
Children see that you are giving the baby support and love because they are helpless. So, often, they will need more help. I was observing a new mother, Lily’s dynamic with her son Daniel (age 5) and I asked her about her struggles. Lily has a one-month-old baby. She broke down crying. After the baby was born Daniel started saying “I don’t know” when being asked simple questions and regressed on potty training. Suddenly needing help with wiping and standing at the toilet. He’s been potty trained for two years. He won’t eat unless spoon fed, his favorite foods even. Lily said, crying “it makes me feel like just the worst mother when your son has tears in his eyes and is asking for bread but won’t eat any of his food unless it’s out of your hand and what can I do? Not feed him? It’s bread! I’m pumping constantly and exhausted. It’s easier to just take care of two babies than to fight all the time”
It’s true. New moms don’t have any energy. Dads are usually working. (we all know most moms work too, but usually, we stay home for a couple of weeks.) Moms often only have the older siblings at home to help keep them sane. That doesn’t make them able to handle responsibilities that dad should take care of before or after he leaves for work, however. (and do not think I’m ignoring that lots of moms don’t have a dad before or after work. I started as a single mom.)
It’s tough. I didn’t always have a partner to help. I did have a family, but not everyone has family or friends when they have a baby, or even two. Of course, children are going to copy what they see. If they see the baby is getting all the love and they are in the way, they will regress. This can make parenting even more difficult.
“Parents need to remember that just because a child becomes a big brother or sister doesn’t mean that they’re no longer a child. Parents have a tendency to start treating their first child as if their adult and expect them to behave so much more. They need to let them be children.“ – from the eyes of a teacher
They need to change the habits and routines from the moment they are pregnant to start preparing the child for a sibling’s arrival, not after the baby is already here.
This is more likely to create a rift in the family than to blend it together. With all the blending of families these days, it’d be nice to have the kids treating each other better. Caring better. Being nicer. That starts in the first moments. It’s time to make the world a better place. That starts at home first.