How to let your child know they are the centre of your universe in one hug.
Despite what the Hallmark cards suggest no child actually permanently occupies the centre of their parent’s universe 24/7. It’s just not possible.
We love our children to bits, they are undoubtedly at the centre of our hearts and our minds and a perpetual priority but, babies aside, no parent can devote their every waking moment to a single child. All parents have competing demands on their time, their energy and their focus. There are jobs parents need to do - paid and unpaid - to provide for their children.
There are relationships to maintain, physical and mental health to take care of, responsibilities to relatives, the never-ending debacle of washing, not to mention the demands of multiple kids. No one child can ever really be the permanent centre of a parent’s universe, because, as a parent, keeping a child’s world ticking means we have to keep ourselves ticking.
Working as an Obstetric Social Worker in a busy maternity unit, I am often told by new parents that “nothing could have prepared them for what it is REALLY like to become a parent”.
Often they tell me they really couldn’t have pictured the huge mix of emotions, the challenge of feeding a newborn, and the healing that takes place in the first weeks.
When we start to talk about the process of adjustment that is taking place for them and their baby, they will often tell me that they already feel completely overwhelmed by the information overload. So much advice out there, so many opinions and how to know what to listen to.
I often reflect on what we should be telling parents to be. What parents really need to know. So I have aimed to keep this piece really simple.
For the first 12 weeks your baby...
If you are expecting another baby, I’m sure you would have imagined introducing your newborn to your other children in the hospital. Perhaps you thought of your toddler cuddling your newborn in your hospital bed with dad operating the camera, ready to capture the perfect moment for eternity, or anticipated them peeping into the clear hospital bassinet with a big grin.
Current visitor restrictions in many hospitals in Sydney right now impact the way older siblings meet a new baby for the first time. So many parents I work with can be really sad and worried about this, and this grief is valid. However, there are some benefits to making this introduction at home.
I certainly anticipated the perfect introduction of a new sibling when I had each of my four boys, but the reality was not nearly as idyllic.
Despite my high hopes, this is what really happened. While I lay with my new baby in the ward, I could hear my toddlers the minute they got out of the...
One of the things parents expecting a second baby are often visualising in the lead up to the birth is the moment their older child and newborn will meet for the first time.
Chubby toddler hands gently holding onto the clear hospital crib looking at their new sibling, a magic moment that many mums picture though the nine long months of pregnancy and all of its ups and downs.
After all, one of the reasons we have more than one child is often because we want to provide a sibling for our older child.
Our subconscious vision is for siblings who will be allies for life, a shoulder to cry on, someone to help you move house, and share adventures with. A friend who will always be there.
In addition, something rarely talked about is how a mother may be feeling in this moment. Her first child is the baby that opened up her heart to motherhood and the idea of another person being able to hold as much space can feel overwhelming.
Many mums feel anywhere from a tinge of sadness to a great...
When I had my second baby I had read and heard two things about smoothing the transition for my older son:
Don’t have the baby in your arms when your older child visits in hospital, and
Get him a present from the baby.
It seemed reasonable and that was the full extent of my preparation to becoming a mum of two.
If you asked me now, was that enough preparation? I would say no.
It’s not that these things are wrong, it’s that I wasn’t aware of how big the transition would be for my child and how to help him. Without this understanding when his behaviour got tricky (which is so normal at two, or three or four) I viewed the problem as his behaviour – not the need for connection with me.
I survived the year that followed the birth of my second child. Just.
Then I watched friends struggle though, and now through my work so many parents tell me that their experience was the same as mine: Hard, lonely and confusing.
The addition of a new baby into a family is always a big change: but a second, or third baby can be a particularly rocky transition for the child that used to be ‘the baby’.
The older child, very often a toddler - has just had their world ROCKED but doesn’t have the words to wrap around how they are feeling.
Parents are adjusting as well. There is increased sleep deprivation, physical healing, increased pressure on relationships, and often with one parent needing to take time off to care for the baby there is increased financial pressure as well.
Despite all of this pressure every single parent I meet though my work is so focussed on helping their older child with the adjustment, the number one question they want to know is: ‘how can I make sure my older child doesn’t feel left out?
The answers lie in connection, boundaries and being with big feelings. Here are my top five tips:
Most parents will be familiar with the sound of siblings fighting, bickering and squabbling; the build up of tension is often audible from another room, soon enough one child is yelling, “THAT’S MINE!” …. The scream and then very often…. a WHACK.
When I work with parents of two or more kids and ask about the thing they are struggling with the most in their family life the number one answer is siblings fighting.
One of the greatest hopes many parents have is for their children to be friends. Beyond not enjoying the constant sound of screaming & bickering on a day-to-day basis many parents share a deeper hope that the humans they’re raising will - one day - be there for each other when we are not.
Our subconscious vision is for siblings who will be allies for life, a shoulder to cry on, someone to help you move house, share adventures with and even be a best man or maid of honour at a wedding.
Published in Kidspot this month, Genevieve's tips for welcoming a second baby.
When I had my second baby I had heard only two things were needed for a smooth transition - don’t have the baby in your arms when your older child visits in hospital and get him a present from the baby.
This advice is at best not helpful, and at worst leaves you completely unprepared for the changes at play when introducing a new baby into the house.
What I wish someone had told me was that the introduction to a new baby isn’t about the union in hospital, it is about connection, boundaries and spending time with your toddler. For more click here
As published on MAMAMIA
Shortly after I had given birth to my third son, I went up to the local post office to collect a package.
I was at the counter with my three- and five-year-old boys, and my newborn asleep in the pram.
Just quietly I was feeling pretty freaking proud to be out, with THREE kids in a post office (which, if you ask anyone who has had three under five, is no mean feat.) Life was good.
“Is it a boy or a girl?” The lady serving me asked, eyeing my two boys and the pram.
I proudly drew back the muslin wrap to reveal my beautiful bundle and said: “This is Tom!”
The look on the woman’s face was pure disappointment. She grabbed my hands in hers, looked at me with big sad eyes and said: “Don’t worry, you are young, and you can try again!"
I immediately looked down at my two older children. Two beautiful creatures who were standing by their new baby brother, with a fresh look of doubt in their eyes.
Gen with her...
The creator of Calmbirth, Peter Jackson, once told me something I’ve never forgotten.
He said ‘the sound of a newborn crying can be likened to the sound of a smoke alarm going off. They make the same sound whether you’ve burnt the toast or the whole kitchen is on fire.’
I spent the next decade soothing four boys while they cried saying to myself…….. “it’s just the toast.”
This seemed to help me to feel less panicked when my babies cried.
The average healthy newborn cries around 1-2 hours a day at birth, yet many new parents find this level of crying pretty rattling – especially when it’s happening in the middle of the night as is most common in the first weeks .
Tracking forward a few weeks what many parents don’t know is that the peak of...
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