Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.
Big Brother-to-Be — Good Parenting
Dear Dr. Debbie,
Our wonderful 2 ½ half–year-old son will soon be welcoming a baby brother. My wife is due to deliver in about two weeks and while we’re excited about “starting over” with another little one, we know there will be some rough adjustments to come for our first born. What can we help him to look forward to?
First Time with a Second Baby
Don’t miss last week’s column Uncooperative Ex.
It’s true that you and Mom have some experience with a newborn, but Child Number One has only known life as the Baby. In a former column, I gave a few tips for avoiding the resentment that can come when being upstaged by a smaller, needier rival for parental attention:
As the days count down toward the arrival of Child Number Two, be sure to give your first born some glimpses of things to look forward to.
Babies Love Faces
Tell Number One that babies like to watch faces — especially silly faces — and before his brother comes, he can take some time to practice in the mirror. This is a lot of fun to do with him, of course. Use your newborn’s “Active Alert” phase to full advantage to help the brothers get acquainted with each other. It may take until six weeks for Baby to respond with a full chuckle, but there will be signs to watch for along the way. Number One can look for eye contact, mimicking of mouth and tongue movements, and those precious ungraceful first attempts at smiling.
If your son is like most 2-year-olds, he loves bath time. Make the suggestion that Little Brother will someday be joining him. Help him imagine what that will be like. If you do this as a fun routine — to music even, he’ll be well-rehearsed. Try the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” “Make the water feel just right, feel just right, feel just right. Make the water feel just right, ’cause Parker’s in the tub.” “Just a little splashing now, splashing now, splashing now. Just a little splashing now, ’cause Parker’s in the tub.” You can end the bath with “Big splashing now!” to rehearse the moment when baby is taken out first (and wrapped in his towel) and Big Brother gets the tub to himself.
Not My Nap Time
What are the quiet activities that soon-to-be Big Brother enjoys? As you read a book, play with a puzzle, scribble with crayons, or squish play dough with him, suggest that the two of you can look forward to doing these things when the baby naps. They’re best done when the house is quiet. Assure him, in an enthusiastic whisper, that tiny babies nap a lot.
What are the things he likes to do that would be fun for a newborn to visually track across the room? Typically two-year-olds are near-constant movement — pulling wagons, pushing toy strollers and shopping cars, rolling toy cars, trucks, and balls. He may have his own dance moves. Maybe he likes to parade and cheer with a team pennant. When he engages in some of these actions, let him know that little babies like to watch things move.
Plan for being a foursome. The car gets another car seat. Find a double stroller. Get a large enough tote bag to hold everything you’d need for a day trip with two little ones. Remember the fuzzy mind that comes with sleep deprivation? Try to get in the habit of keeping the bag stocked so you can simply grab it and go when the time is right. Some parents do this as part of the bedtime routine. Assure Number One that he will be able to go to all his favorite familiar places (list them with him) as well as have new adventures with his family after his brother comes.
Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com