What can I do to prepare my first child for the arrival of a second child?
To start with I'll paraphrase Doctor Zimmerman , "When you have a second child, you get to teach the first child the best lesson and hardest lesson in their own home -- that they aren't the center of the universe."
My first reaction is - what a harsh thought. I want my child to feel they are the center of the universe. But after thinking about this idea enough, I see its value. What a wonderful gift to give a child, to help them learn to care about those around them, to love more than just themselves, to think about other's needs.
So, how to help them prepare...
I am really big into roll play. In other words, before baby #2 I used a doll and increasingly paid more and more attention to him. I knew that jealousy can be apart of a new baby's arrival - and I wanted to get it out of their system on a doll, and not the newborn. So, literally, I would hold the doll - a lot. I would talk to it, sing to it, pretend to change its diaper - and then slowly, I would invite #1 to help me. To sing with me, to bring the diaper to me...just involving him.
And when #1 would want to play blocks I would respond with something like this, "What a wonderful idea, its such a wonderful idea that I think baby doll would love it to...should we ask him?" And then as we played blocks, I would say something like, "Look how silly baby is, he wanted to play blocks but he is just sitting there. But you know how to use your hands to build such a tall tower. I think maybe baby doll just likes to watch you build...just like I do."
This is probably my greatest idea of all time. I was really concerned about the time newborns feed, and I didn't want the jealousy to grow. So, before #2 came, I created a nursing box. I bought all sorts of quiet play time activities (you know, the things you bring on a plane trip). And I filled the box, wrapping some of the things (and then frequently rotated the activities). And when #2 came, I called it "Nursing Time" which meant newborn ate, and #1 could get out his box. There weren't very many jealousy issues, and after enough time, it just became routine.
Regression is sometimes a part of the process, but calling the older one - "big brother" or "big sister" sometimes makes it worse. They are reminded - that being big means they don't get to be held constantly, and would rather be little. So just use their name, and keep pointing out all of the things they know how to do.
Its a relief that infants really won't remember what you say and do with the older one. So, a lot of times, when the baby would pull hair or something - I would look at #1 and giggle and say, "Can you believe how silly babies are...he thinks pulling hair is like a hug...oh, silly baby." And the laugh would help teach #1 how to respond.
Even at the park the other day, an older #2 crashed down a sand castle of #1, and instead of being devastated I said, "Is Chase pretending to be a tornado again? Chase thinks its tornado time...maybe you can build another castle and he can be a hurricane this time."