Transparency, a lot of love, a bit of creativity, here are the keys to announce and prepare your first child for the arrival of his or her little brother or sister. This is quite an upheaval for an older child who is used to the exclusive attention of his parents. We share with you our tips to bring this change smoothly, especially when you come back from the maternity ward!
1/ TAKE CARE OF THE "BEFORE", THE MOMENT OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT
Simplicity is sometimes the best solution to announce the big news! We will avoid formulations that are too reassuring "don't worry, mom and dad will always love you", "don't worry, everything will be fine" that could ultimately distress the child. If the child does not feel any particular anxiety, one should avoid apologizing or reassuring him/her excessively. Involving the child during the pregnancy is preferable in order to involve him/her little by little and at his/her own pace.
● During pregnancy, take advantage of quiet time to explain to the older child what a baby really is and how it works. He sleeps a lot, eats a lot, cries regularly and that is OK. For you it is, but it can be frustrating for an older child who doesn't understand why his new sibling doesn't want to play with him. Books will be your biggest help to deal with all this, as well as picture books! You can also, why not, take a tour of the room with him/her to introduce the important places for baby and their functions: the bassinet, the changing table, the bath, the bouncer.
● Prepare baby for the birth by explaining how it will happen to avoid D-day anxiety. Explain then that you will have a bit of a tummy ache, that daddy will take you to the maternity ward to get the baby out of the tummy, that a nice doctor will help you welcome the baby and that you will need to rest for a few days. During this time, explain to your older child that he or she will be looked after by grandma or grandpa, an aunt, a sister, a brother or a relative - and that daddy will be back very soon.
● Before the birth, offer your elder to choose a small gift for the new baby. A way to gently involve him in his new role as "big". You can also make him a present to celebrate the arrival of the new baby! The arrival of a child is a celebration for the whole family, so you might as well make the most of it (you can imagine the new baby spoiling his brother or sister). You can also offer to choose the baby's blanket or his first outfit!
2/ WORKING ON THE "AFTER", WHEN YOU RETURN FROM MATERNITY
Coming back from motherhood with two young children will probably not be a walk in the park. But it can be smooth. But it can also go smoothly if you apply a few tricks to give everyone a place.
● If your older child can't see his/her little brother or sister at the maternity ward, consider making a little movie for him/her introducing the new baby live from the room. A way to show him/her that you are thinking about him/her and that mom doesn't forget about him/her.
● Suggest that your older child sort out his or her old toys to pass on to his or her little brother or sister: rattle, comforter, early learning toys...your older child takes his or her place and organizes, in his or her own way, the newborn's room.
● When baby is here, involve your older child in the chores and praise him/her for his/her gentleness, kindness, presence! For example, you can suggest that he/she bring baby's blanket, pacifier, hold the bottle, hold his/her head when he/she eats, tuck him/her in when he/she sleeps. He/she will develop a strong sense of pride and belonging.
● Keep time with your grown-up! As much as possible and even if you don't have the gift of ubiquity, these simple moments of daily life are precious for your first born. Suggest a moment of reading together, to bake a good cake for the snack, to look at old albums from when he/she was little to show him/her that you have been there too...
And remember, if jealousy or a period of regression creeps into your reunion, it's perfectly normal and will pass with lots of love, hugs, patience and family time.