I’ve never been a big one for change. I don’t think any of us really are. We like the familiarity of life and the safety net it provides. Such security provides the foundations in which we want to bring up our children. Don’t get me wrong – life’s not perfect and things don’t always end up the way we want them to. Jobs change, house moves happen and for the subject of this post… the birth of another child.
With the arrival of his little sister, L began to push boundaries. He took time to adjust to the fact that he wasn’t the centre of attention anymore, but, we felt really confident that, even through the tantrums, we’d given him lots of support and preparation, and ultimately we just needed to give him time to come to terms with what had just unfolded in his little world. And that is exactly what happened, a couple of weeks later L returned to his usual self.
With the birth of baby E, we approached it feeling confident that we would be able to deal with the adjustment period well. But flip me, it was so much harder than we thought! An important factor to mention here is that neither of our children’s frustrations were targeted at baby E – they both fell in love with him straightaway, and delighted in telling everyone, even random people in the street, that we had a new baby. No, their frustration was targeted at us. What I found hardest was how when we went from 1 to 2, there was an equal ratio of adults to children, we could take one each. But from 2 to 3…we were outnumbered! Also, having a four year old who is very verbally capable is really hard! When he throws your own comments back at you with just as much confidence and passion, it really catches you off guard!
So here are a few tips just to bear in mind for when your 2nd, 3rd or 6th bundle of joy comes along:
- Don’t feel guilty – you’ll feel that you’ve ruined your child’s life and that your relationship with your other children will never be the same. While that might be true, remember that the relationships you build as a bigger family are totally worth it. They will be better off for the relationships formed with siblings and with you.
- Don’t be tempted to spoil them. They don’t want presents – they want you.
- Even in the tiredness, give them time. This is just as important for both mum and dad. Make sure there’ at least one point every day when you both give each of your children some valuable time.
- When you’ve asked them for the 10 millionth time – be patient. I found this the hardest. When tired, frustrated and wanting things done, it can be easy to lose your temper. When they are screaming or sad – just hold them. Cry together, talk together and move on.
- Remember that although you are the adult, it’s important for your children to see you make mistakes and learn from them. Let them see how they’ve hurt you and talk about it together. We always make a point of saying sorry to our children if we’ve made a mistake. Obviously I would rather not make a mistake but I want them to grow up in a culture of forgiveness and knowing that we aren’t perfect.
- A day out with grandparents is a good thing. There is a danger that you could feel like you’re abandoning your children but we all know that being spoilt by grandparents is the greatest thing on the planet for your little ones. They’ll come back rested and you’ll be rested too, and thus ready to move on together (obviously don’t pack them off for a 2 week break, just the odd day here or there!). Or if you don’t have Grandparents around, there might be a friend who could just take them to the park for a bit.
- Involve them in as much as possible; from nappy changing to feeding, from winding to cuddles and bath time. The sooner they feel involved with the baby’s life, the sooner they’ll settle down.
- Get away. This might not be for everyone but we found a week away in a different place gave us a freedom and distraction we all desperately needed. It rained the week after E arrived and we all got a bit of cabin fever and needed a change of scenery. With the busyness of visitors, the house can get overwhelming and this can be exhausting for children. We found some time away really helped form our family of 5. I don’t think it was particularly relaxing, but I will treasure that time away.
- Every child is different. Although our eldest displayed some incredible defiance, our daughter, who was 21-months at the time, seemed to be fine on the surface, but we soon discovered her sleep would be heavily impacted. Waking regularly and not going off to sleep as easily were some of the ways I think she was dealing with the changes.
At the end of the day, all of this will come to an end. The ‘pushing’ behaviour will settle down and your children will return to who you remember them to be. They are just checking that everything they treasured in their secure environment is still there. Everything has drastically changed for them so they’re checking – “can I throw my cup on the floor now?” “No I can’t, ok, that’s the same!” Being consistent during this time is important for them to remain feeling secure in their environment. I wish there was another way they could do it, you know, with a quick cuddle and a whisper in the ear but I think, in some way, it has brought us closer together.
Are you expecting another baby? How did your children react when you had your newest? Did some of your children react better than others? Does a bigger age gap make any difference?