Sibling roles

Does your little one know where they fit in in the family?  Particularly if they have a younger sibling?
Here are some drawings I did with Master 4 when I noticed he felt like attention was always on younger brother and he sometimes felt like he didn’t know what his role in the family was.
Not so easy to see the drawings, but you 'get the picture'!

Not so easy to see the drawings, but you ‘get the picture’!

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I drew these drawings with him as we talked about how important he was AND also how his younger brother would also have similar roles, particularly as he got older.
This really helped so when I then had to say ‘you’ll have to wait for your brother’, ‘wait for your turn with Grandma’ or ‘show your brother how to pack away’, he had more of an intrinsic motivation as he knew this was one of his roles as big brother.

Much better than ‘you’re the oldest, that’s just how it is!’.

Would what you say your children’s roles are in your family?

You’re going to be a big sister! Now here’s what’s going to change…

As the nine months draws to an end, most parents start to feel the nerves of managing one child (or more!) AND a newborn.  Yes it does come with challenges, logistical craziness and plenty of work in helping your older child through, no matter what their age,  but keep in mind it is still a very special time and hopefully an exciting event for your child!

The good thing is, you can start to make small changes before the baby arrives to help prepare your child for what will eventually be the ‘new’ way of life.  Do talk about the pros of the little brother or sister’s arrival but remember playing cars and tea parties will be YEARS from now!  Your child needs to know what will happen from day one, particularly what will affect them.  

Change helps us to learn and grow....

Change helps us to learn and grow….

You can start by slowly introducing some of the changes below and providing pieces of information about the ‘new’ way of life…and repeat as much as they need!  

  • Prepare for the whole family to have a shake-up to their routine for a while.  You can start talking to your child about what might change for them, such as coming to watch the baby have a bath before their bath or explaining that Mummy or Daddy might have a sleep in the daytime.
  • Prepare to be breast-feeding at any time of the day, including right at your child’s bath, book or going to sleep time.  You can change up any routine now by having your husband step in (or you if you don’t normally take that activity, as down the track your husband might be doing the baby settling which gives you a chance to spend time with child 1).  Encourage independence in any activity that your child is close to, such as scooping their own food or taking off some of their clothes before their bath and putting it in the laundry.
  • Prepare to need quiet while someone is trying to settle the baby.  You can start practicing being quiet with your child, practicing for when baby arrives.  Doll or teddy play is great for this or even making a game of tiptoeing to the bedroom.
  • Prepare to be needed in two places at the one time.  You can start making your child wait that bit longer before you get to them or getting them to set themselves up for say book time or at the dinner table.  Again, think encouraging independence in any skill that your child is close to mastering!
  • Prepare to be busy.  You can start thinking about new routines now.  This might be cooking dinners when your child sleeps/rests, to avoid super-crazy witching hour or if you need to go hard at improving your child’s sleeping habits.  Reconsider any changes to your child’s life for the first little while, such as toilet training, moving to a bed, mostly as you will have less time and emotional energy to deal with these.
  • Prepare for a family full of emotion from tiredness to jealousy!  You can prepare your child by either talking to your child about the feelings that they might face (Trace Moroney writes a great series of books ‘When I’m feeling… kind, lonely, sad, jealous, happy, angry, scared, loved’) or prepare to give out many hugs and special time for your little one if they are too young to understand the words for these scenarios.  The most important thing is to be HONEST.  When you sit down and think about it, there might be few ‘pros’ for your child to have this new baby in their life so it is important not to pretend it is anything other than how your child is feeling that it is.  Jealousy and loneliness COULD be on the cards but on the other hand, your child might enjoy helping out and being the big brother/sister!
  • As mentioned in many of my posts, drawing is a great way to help your child talk things out whilst keeping their attention.  You might do a stick figure drawing and say ‘remember when you were in your room today whilst Mummy was feeding little bubby? (drawing as you go) Did you feel jealous that Mummy wasn’t there playing with you?’ or ‘remember when Mummy couldn’t get to swimming today because she was feeding little bubby? (drawing as you go) How did you feel taking Daddy instead? (you might let them draw the smile/frown or give them options of ‘excited’, ‘sad’, ‘both’).  Drawing brings past events (even from 10 minutes ago) to a concrete level for your child to think about more easily.  It also lasts longer in front of them than words that come and go.  And it can end up being a ‘special activity’ they get to do with Mummy or Daddy.  Link here to find out more about drawing conversations with your child.

Above all, patience and understanding is really needed, which can be extremely hard when you are exhausted.  You can only do your best and remember, all the first-borns in the world have had to go through the same thing!  ‘You’re going to be a big brother. What do I say next?’ also has information on how/when to break the news and preparing your child for the birth.

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You’re going to be a big brother! What do I say next?

Oh the excitement to have another sibling on the way!  But there is some work involved in deciding how much information and when, to provide to your little one, about being pregnant and the impending birth.  Let alone what happens after THE arrival (but that’s another post).

Here are some things to consider in preparing your child for what is involved in growing a child and bringing it into the world…

Timing when to announce to your little one that you are pregnant

This all depends on age, your child’s interest in babies and how long you want to be fielding questions and talking about the upcoming arrival!  If you’ve found out the sex of your baby, this can be a great way to make it more ‘real’ for your child, especially if they have a name for the baby too.  On the other hand, it can be a great exercise to teach about ‘waiting’, ‘surprise’ and how conception gives us no option to choose the gender if you choose not to find out.  And be prepared, if you give the baby a nickname before the birth, your child may struggle to swap to the new name for a little while!

How much information do I provide?  What should I tell them?

Considering pregnancy and birth is such a miracle of life for us humans and knowing that children love to share a sense of wonder at this age, there is a strong argument for providing as much honest and age-appropriate information as needed for your child.  Depending on their age, you may just wait for questions and provide just enough information or you may have the child that needs to know every last detail.  Having ‘all the facts’ can help your child to feel safer about what is going on during the pregnancy and what will happen once the baby arrives.  It may also stem the need for excess questions however, when a child is still asking, they are trying to process a scenario in their head so be patient and keep providing information, even if you are repeating it every day.  Keep in mind, some children really don’t know what questions to ask although they may be interested in you providing some information.

Have a good think of your explanation of how the baby was made and how it will arrive BEFORE you tell your child you are pregnant!  Otherwise, remember you can always say ‘I’ll have to have a think about that one’ for any curly questions you are unprepared for (and then go and get your answer ASAP before the question is fired again!).

It all depends on a child’s maturity and need for information as to how much detail you actually provide.  It might seem embarrassing to us, but does a child really find it that way if we explain in matter-of-fact terms that a baby is born through a vagina?  Again, have a think about how much information you want to give to your child (and how much you want them to be repeating to others!).  There is always a way to SIMPLIFY explanations, rather than lie!

For those unsure of the explanation they will give their child, why not visit the library or look at their online catalogue to find books on explaining pregnancy and birth to your child.  It may be useful to read them beforehand and choose the one that fits your family the best.  Of course if you have a particular set of circumstances (such as a homebirth or child attending the birth), you could always search online for titles.  There is a book for every scenario!

Involve them

The more your child is involved in preparing for the baby, the more they will learn and feel a part of the process.  This might be:

  • using a cheap calendar to mark out dates and milestones, such as scans, baby able to hear, when baby first kicked and the due date
  • a trip to the hospital or clinic with you so they can visualise where you will be going to have the baby or the people involved in the birth
  • going to the shops and choosing the new washers, bath toys or books you will need for the baby
  • talking to your child about the reason for each item required by a baby as you sort them out at home
  • drawing scenarios for your child (stick figures are enough!): what happens at an obstetrician/midwife visit, the steps that will happen on the day the baby is born via Caesar, the different people they might spend some time with when Mummy goes into labour.  Read more about the benefits of visual explanations to help your child understand in the post ‘When in doubt, say it with a pen‘.
  • make a little book with these pictures so your child can re-read as much as they need.  You might use your stick figures or find Google images or even use some photos with Vista Print.
  • think about a present for the baby, from your child.  It could be a teddy or even a book they can later read to the little one.

Above all, remember that this time is not only an amazing journey for the family but also a period of many changes in routine.  Communication will be your biggest friend in helping your child to adjust!

Did anyone else have a favourite book for their child or another great way of helping them to learn about pregnancy or birth?

Part two – You’re going to be a big sister! Now here’s what’s going to change will give you more ideas of what changes to expect and how to help child 1, after the baby’s arrival 🙂

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I Raise My Kids is also at Facebook and now at Google+ 🙂 Heidi

Saying it with a pen – rules for a big brother

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Ever since Master 1 arrived, Master 3 has always struggled with the extra person in the household.  He had previously taken up a fair bit of my attention being premature and then a clingy one to say the least.

Master 3 has suffered from health problems, namely eczema and food intolerances and allergies.  But I always ‘unconsciously’ knew Master 3 was also struggling to fit into our family and this might even be affecting his health.

One day, I decided ‘that’s it! we’re doing a drawing’.  Even though we had talked about a lot of this, I knew a drawing would really hold Master 3’s attention and help him to talk about the scenario more than us just talking verbally (and him focussing on what toy he might play with next).

Firstly, I thought about what would really help him to feel truly loved and a part of our family, but also how to get him to understand that he and Master 1 both had roles to play.  It started with ‘Master 3’s story’.  I drew about Mummy and Daddy and how we wished for a baby.  Then how Mummy was pregnant and that Master 1 arrived six weeks early (to make it that bit more personalised/special – his story).  I then drew about how happy Mummy and Daddy were and how many nights Mummy sat with him in the night, when he wanted those extra cuddles (much to my sleep deprivation! yawn…).   Master 3 was already giggling with this story being drawn especially about him.

'his story'

‘his story’

Next, we continued the story about Mummy and Daddy wishing for one more baby for our family.

Big brother roles

And then we got to looking at the special roles Master 3 has as ‘big brother’.  I drew icons or simple words for Master 3 about his roles:

  • Give Master 1 love – kisses, hugs or nice words (this doesn’t always come easily to Master 3)
  • Show Master 1 ‘the right way’ – eg packing away, putting clothes into laundry basket, playing with toys, using his words
  • Be patient – that means ‘wait’ – Master 1 needs to have turns with the ‘important people’ too – (we drew pictures of Mummy, Daddy, other family members etc)
  • Help – protect Master 1 (trampoline, roads, daycare, bath, playground), fix or find things for Master 1 (one of Master 3’s better skills), teach Master 1 new skills (eg. building towers, running, yoga – one of Master 3’s specialities!)

Master 3 was really happy with these and already I could see he was really taking this on.  And the best thing was for me to stop and DRAW it – it really made me think what do we really expect of Master 3?

Now this was all good, but slightly unfair we had a whole lot of expectations for Master 3.. but what about Master 1?

So we started again!

Little brother roles

Little brother roles

Little brother roles

  • Give Master 3 love – hugs, kisses, nice words
  • Be patient – for Master 3 to have turns with the ‘important people’
  • Play nicely with Master 3 – no fighting, take turns (or else Master 3 is allowed to ask Mummy for help to negotiate)
  • Learn from Master 3 – he WILL follow you, watch you and copy you (Master 3 not always happy with this but we made it out to be very special)

Since then, we have always spoken about the special parts to this story:

  • We are all a family together – all of us (eg. ‘Master 1 will come on the holiday with us, all of us together’)
  • Master 3 is an important big brother who helps Master 1 to learn
  • Master 1 has roles too (eg. ‘it’s your turn now, Master 1 has to wait too doesn’t he’)
  • No being rough with each other
  • And also pointed out moments when Master 1 is being funny for Master 3 to develop a bit of love and pride for him

And through this I am developing intrinsic motivation in Master 3 to want to:

  • Give Master 1 love (‘you gave him a hug, that helps him to grow!’)
  • Help and care for Master 1 (‘that was so thoughtful getting his trike out for him!’)
  • See us ALL as a family (‘that’s you with Master 1 when he was born.  He is in our family with us now’)

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