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Welcoming a Second Child: How to Handle the Change

By Lisa Pecos

Having a first child is one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do. From the middle stages of pregnancy until those blessed later months of the first year when the baby gets less fussy and more predictable, you are put through a series of challenges that test every fiber of your being. So it is a wonder that anyone would make a conscious choice to complicate things further by bringing a second child into the picture. Yet people do it all the time. And yes, many aspects of having a baby are easier the second time around, but in many ways you will feel just as challenged and bewildered as you did the first time.

Preparing for the baby
The pregnancy is the easy part. You have been through it before, and you know what to expect. The birth process may of course be different this time around, but at least you have your experience with the last birth to make you more comfortable. So when it comes to getting ready for a second child, the most challenging part is preparing your first child for the changes that are about to occur.

Exactly how you prepare your first child depends on how old he or she is. If the she is old enough to understand what is going on, start talking to her about it as early as possible. Explain to her that there is a little brother or sister on the way, and talk about it regularly throughout the pregnancy. And when it comes time to start preparing for the new baby in tangible ways, let your first child be involved. Let her pick items for the baby’s room, give her a chance to pass some toys or books down to the younger sibling, and read books that help her understand what is happening.

As the due date approaches, continue gradually preparing for the new arrival, but make sure you do not take the focus off your first child. Give her plenty of attention, and let her know that she is still huge in your hearts and minds. And for now, you might want to hold off on any other major changes. One big change is enough. For now, make your child feel as safe and stable as possible.

Meanwhile, consider it a blessing that you are now intimately familiar with how a baby can wear you out, and try to rest up before the baby comes. If you have a spouse with whom you can take turns caring for your first child, consider yourself lucky, and get plenty of sleep while you can.

After the baby comes
When the second baby comes, the real fun begins. You are going to have to figure out a way to care for your newborn 24/7 while giving your first child all the attention he needs. This can be a tricky balance to achieve. If you prepared your first child well and he is old enough to understand, then he may cut you a little slack if you do not give him all the focused attention he used to receive, but do not push your luck. Young children rarely think logically about these things, so it is important to make sure your firstborn feels as loved as ever.

One way to prevent bad feelings from developing is to let your first child be as involved as he or she wants to be. Some young children want nothing to do with their newborn siblings, while others want to be around them constantly. Let your firstborn decide how much involvement he or she wants, and do your best to make it happen.

During this time, you will find that there are certain toys, books, videos, or activities that are particularly useful in that they keep your first child occupied while you are caring for your newborn. Starting during the pregnancy, try different things to find out what particularly captures and hold your child’s interest. Then, keep these things easily accessible.

While caring for your newborn, keep in mind that a little bit of attention goes a long way. It is only natural for your firstborn to experience a little jealousy, and he or she cannot be blamed for acting out in some small ways. But if you keep giving your first child plenty of attention and never act as if you are trying to brush him or her aside, then you should be able to get through these tough months with little drama.

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