Dear Dr. Meg
I have a four year old daughter and I am expecting baby #2 in February. What are some ways that my husband and I can make this change easier on our daughter?
Most older siblings feel jealous at the arrival of a new baby and this is normal but there are a few tricks you can use to help ease the transition. I recommend having the baby “give” a gift to your daughter when she comes to see the baby for the first time in the hospital. Also, at four, your daughter is old enough to help hold the baby and comfort her with your help. If you breast feed the baby, you might also think about getting a baby doll (one that looks like an infant not a toddler) and have your daughter take care of her baby doll as you care for her little sister or brother. She may feel a bit old to do this, but give it a try.
Once you are back on your feet, ask a family member or get a sitter to stay with the baby once a week for a couple of hours and take your daughter out for some alone time. This doesn’t have to be more than going to the grocery store, but if you tack on a trip for hot chocolate afterwards, it can make the time very special. When you are out, tell her how fun it is to do things with you that her younger sibling can’t do with you. A little alone time goes a long way for little ones.
Some jealousy is very normal, as is a bit of regressive behavior. For instance, some older siblings want to start sleeping with their parents and may act younger than their age. This usually lasts for a couple of months and then the older child begins acting his/her age. So, if your daughter does begin acting more like a three year old, don’t be disturbed, it will pass.
Children are always a blessing. I encourage you to act excited about the baby and not worry too much about your daughter. If you expect her to handle the transition well, she is far more likely to. If you show your enthusiasm and tell her that the baby will be a blessing to the whole family, she is more likely to see the baby this way too. Remember, that at four, your daughter reads every move you make and word you say. That means, if you are worried about her, she’ll pick up on it. So try to relax and enjoy the rest of your pregnancy.