Q: [Toddler to Grade School] “I am pregnant with my second child, and our 4-year-old has been asking a lot of questions about my pregnancy. So, we’ve decided to include our child in the rest of my pregnancy, and also delivery. Do you have any tips on how best to do this?”
A: Preparing for your second child is a happy and exciting time for the entire family. But a new sibling can throw everyone for a loop, especially your 4-year-old.
First, recognize that your older child might be experiencing new (and sometimes challenging) emotions and behaviors. For example, he or she may try your patience more than normal, throw tantrums more frequently, may have some setbacks or misbehave. The good news is that you’ve already recognized that including them can help.
Here are some tips:
- Consider taking your child to ultrasound appointments so they will be able to see their new sibling grow in your belly. If possible, ask your child questions about what they see on the ultrasound screen, such as: “I think your brother is waving at you — what do you think?”
- Encourage your child to pick out a gift for the baby by taking a special shopping trip. Work with your child to choose either a book, stuffed animal or toy and let your child know that they can give the baby their gift when they are born.
- Pick out a gift for your older child. Make sure to recognize that your 4-year-old will see the baby receive a lot of gifts — it’s only natural that he or she may feel jealous. Take a moment after the baby arrives to spend some one-on-one time with your child.
- Identify how your older child can help care for the new baby. Assign your older son or daughter a specific task — for example, they carry the baby’s bag to your car and into your room at the hospital.
Lastly, remind your 4-year-old that you’ll love them the same amount when the baby comes — your heart will just get bigger.
Dr. Kenneth A. James, MD and Allison Molinski, MSN, CNM are part of Mission Hospital’s Birth Center and Midwifery program. Mission Hospital is the second hospital in the State of California to offer an in-hospital birth center to its patients. For additional information, visit mission4health.com.