It has been said that the greatest gift you can give your children is a strong and healthy relationship between you and your partner. If you are looking forward to welcoming a new baby into your family this year, there are some things you can do to ease the transition for all of you, while maintaining a good connection with your partner.
First, spend some time talking about what did or didn’t work the first time around.
Put some plans in place for help, leave time for both of you, and make sure you clarify expectations for who will be responsible for what leading up to the birth and in the postpartum period. Acknowledge that this baby may have different needs or a different temperament than your first child(ren), and that you can problem-solve around that together! Where possible, look to streamline schedules and household needs as much as possible ahead of time. If an older child will be home all day during the postpartum period, consider putting together a few packages of new small toys or crafts to take out as needed during long afternoons.
Set yourself up for a positive start as a family of four (or more).
Don’t assume the negative possibilities will happen! All kids adjust differently, be careful of setting the expectation that there will be jealousy or acting out. Avoid sibling books that assume this will happen. (I really like My New Baby by Rachel Fuller for its positive focus.) Spend some time with your partner talking about all of the things you are looking forward to with adding a new little person into the mix.
As John Gottman says, “Remember you are both in the same soup!”
The challenges, the stresses, the strong emotions, the hassles, the work, and the joys belong to both of you. Commiserate, don’t compete– no one wins the fight of who is the most tired, stressed, etc. Work on your conflict skills - arguments will happen, but try to avoid being:
And instead try to be:
-Responsible for your own actions
Nurture all of your family relationships.
Set a date with your partner for after the baby comes, even if it’s far into the future – and talk often about how you are looking forward to it! Show appreciation for each other’s efforts. Maintain your sense of humor. Avoid the trap of “man to man coverage” and make sure to set aside time for each parent to spend with each child, even a trip to the grocery store with your older child alone can count as special time. Try to notice and encourage signs of sibling bonding early and often. Older kids love hearing that their baby brother or sister smiles just for them, and they like being reinforced for gentle touches and helpful behavior.
For those of you who have already made this transition, what would you add to this list? How did the transition to two or more kids go for your family?
Alana DiMario, LMHC, CCE, a licensed therapist who specializes in family relationships as well as helping women and couples through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. She facilitates all New Moms Groups at Bellani Maternity.