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.
Many parents report feeling like their older child had changed or is behaving badly. It’s a really confusing time.
This is something I am really keen to help parents with in my work, because I believe that knowing what to focus on can make all the difference and here is the key thing I would like all parents to know when expecting a second baby: Our older child has one major concern and it goes something like this:
“Are WE ok? Do you have enough love for me AND the baby?”
When we know what the question is, we know how to answer it. To process this big question our kids need a steady mix of connection, boundaries and parents that can sit with uncomfortable feelings as their kids process them.
Tracking to today, I am a mum to four gorgeous sons. Thankfully the transitions to home for our subsequent children went much more smoothly because after my second child I began studying the science of attachment, and eventually became a Circle of Security Facilitator so I could bring this same knowledge to other parents. I teach parents in hospital, privately and via on-line learning.
The parents I meeting through my work are incredibly loving, focussed on their kids and really keen to make the transition home with a new baby go as smoothly as possible for their older child.
Often they have heard the same two things I had heard about preparing their older child and they ask me what I think. I’d like to answer these questions here:
The present is not the game changer.
As cliched as it sounds, the real present is your presence. If you are going to buy a present my advice is to make it from you, not the baby as many 2 and 3 year olds are pretty quick to work out that their tiny baby brother or sister was not on Amazon from the womb.
It is probably better not to have your new baby in your arms when your older child comes into the hospital room but not because it will make your toddler jealous to see the baby with mum. It’s because we want our arms and body open and ready to meet our older child - whose world has just been ROCKED - and say with our actions…..
“You may be wondering if I have enough love for you AND the baby and my answer is unequivocally YES!”
Obstetric Social Worker and Parent Educator at the Mater hospital in Sydney, Circle of Security International facilitator for numerous organisations, and also a mother to four beautiful boys Genevieve is passionate about helping families in Sydney and beyond adapt to the modern parenting world and all its challenges and not only survive but thrive.
Genevieve also works privately with clients worldwide, and has just launched an online course ‘And Then There Were Two’ – Helping parents navigate the transition from one child to two.
These comprehensive, learn at your own pace courses give you access at any time to videos, audios and documents that covers the core areas of development when reaching these milestone moments as a parent or grandparent.
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