I'm expecting my second child in March 2013 and at that time the baby's older brother will be two. Recently I have noticed that he gets upset/jealous when I hold another baby or pay attention to another child. Which I feel is quite normal for a child his age, and being an only child at this time. But I wonder how he'll be when his brother/sister arrives next year. And is there anything I can do during my pregnancy to get him prepared? Or do I wait until the baby arrives to see how he reacts/adjusts? I would appreciate any advice you may have. Thank you.
From: Kristen, Boston, MA
When the first-born is so young and has limited cognitive ability, the best thing you can do to help him be prepared is to be prepared yourself. By that I mean, be ready for your own emotional and psychological shifts so that you aren't unwittingly or unnecessarily preoccupied worries at the thought of a second child:
* Will I be spreading myself too thin?
* How will I carve out time for a baby and still have time for my 2-year-old, not to mention myself and my husband?
* Will I be able to meet the unique needs of each child?
These feelings are normal but if you don't have the chance to talk them out (with your spouse, a best friend, your mom), they can bloom into anxiety that can affect your ability to parent and your accessibility to your first-born.
As I write in my book on the section about welcoming a second child, even if you don't have anxiety, the relationship with your child typically does change sometime during pregnancy simply because you may be less physically available. Kids sense the change. Some of them get clingy, whiny and/or hyperactive while others become quiet and withdrawn. In an effort to re-engage you, a toddler is most likely to insist on being involved in activities with you which -- ta da! -- tires you out and makes you more unavailable.
Recognizing a toddler's uncanny sensitivity to mom has changed the advice professionals offer from waiting until the very end to tell a toddler a baby is coming to telling at the same time you tell other people.
When you tell him, be matter-of-fact: "A new baby is growing in a special place inside of me. When it gets born, it will be a part of our family." Don't say it's growing in your stomach -- that can prompt sympathy pains; if you want to name the place, use the correct word: uterus or womb.
Don't expect him to be happy or excited. He has no idea what this means. If he says, "I don't want a baby," resist the urge to say, "Of course you do! It'll be fun." Instead, answer the question he's unable to ask: "Will you still love me when there's a baby?" Even though this is unspoken, tell him, "When the baby is here, I'll love you the same as now. Mom and dad will take care of you, just like now."
Emphasize what will stay the same, not what will change. Be specific: "We'll still read a story every night before bed. You'll still go to daycare."
Make changes to his life early in the pregnancy, especially if you are switching him to a new room or bed.
If you are ill during the pregnancy, avoid saying the baby has made you sick. You're just not feeling well; you need a nap. Your feet need to rest.