Seven years ago, I gave birth to a son. My husband and I knew almost immediately that he would be our only child. We felt content with one child and didn’t think we would ever want another one.
When said son was about 4 years old, and we had committed to go to the mission field to serve, we begin to feel the desire to have another child. We felt that it would be good for our son to have a sibling if we were going to be living away from extended family and friends and in a “foreign” place.
I had become pregnant with our son very quickly, and so we assumed that I would be pregnant just as quickly with our second child. This wasn’t the case. It took nearly two years before I became pregnant so our son was one month shy of his 7th birthday when our second child, another son, was born. I had concerns about how my firstborn would handle a sibling after being an “only” child for nearly seven years.
We came up with some strategies to help him adjust. We made sure to tell him first that he was going to be a big brother. We didn’t want others to know before our son did. I think this helped him feel special because we gave him the news first.
In addition to telling him first, we made sure to involve him during the pregnancy as much as possible. We allowed him to visit the doctor with us (when appropriate). We allowed him to see the ultrasound so that he could actually see the baby. We even asked him about possible names and gave him a harmony pregnancy necklace to fill truly included. We had frequent conversations with him about the baby. When the baby began to move, I made sure to let him rub his hand on my tummy so that he could feel the baby moving. Once we found out it was a boy, we let him help us decide on the name. These probably seem like common sense strategies or maybe even natural things to do, but I believe that going the extra mile to include him during the pregnancy has helped him adjust.
Once the baby arrived, we again allowed our firstborn to be the first one into the room to see the baby. We also gave him the privilege to hold the baby before anyone else. I had also picked up a big brother shirt that he wore on the day our second child was born.
We let him hold the baby as much as he wished. We let him tell people about his new little brother. We really tried to cater to his needs as much as possible so that he still felt like we cared. So often with new siblings, the older sibling feels neglected or left out. Some of our friends even aided in this by bringing not only a gift for the baby, but a gift for big brother, too.
Once we arrived home, we tried to involve our older son by asking him to “help us take care of little brother.” We would ask him to help by bringing us diapers. We would tell him we “needed” him to do A. B. or C. We told him how much we appreciated his help and what a great job he was doing. We told him we couldn’t do things without his help.
We tried not to say, “we can’t do this or that because of the baby,” but tried to put a positive spin on things so that he didn’t feel that the baby was more important.
As I said before, a lot of these things are common sense, but they have helped our family adjust from being a family of three for so long to being a family of four. Our firstborn is loving towards his brother and always wanting to help. He wakes each morning and asks how his baby brother slept and ate throughout the night. He kisses him goodbye each morning before school and hello each afternoon when school is over. He knows that we love both he and his brother because we tell him that we love him, and we show it as well.
Becoming a family of four has taken work, but we are grateful for the blessing that God has granted us and thankful that our older son has adjusted so well to being a big brother.