When we found out we were pregnant with Gracie, I went through a whole range of emotions. But I think the one that was the most consistently overwhelming was my anxiety about how Bean would adjust. I worried that he would resent having a sibling, or that he would think we loved him less because we had to share our love with another baby. Looking back, I see how small Bean was at the time and realize that he probably wouldn’t have cared less either way. But at the time, I was really worried.
We read a few things about introducing siblings when the baby is born, but mostly we went on our own parenting instincts. One of the hard-fast rules we followed from the very beginning was trying not to restrict Bean’s interaction with Gracie. From the minute he first met her, we tried to encourage him to talk to her and touch her. He was hesitant when he first met her, but after we gave him permission to hold her hand or touch her foot, he seemed to warm up. We tried to view it from Bean’s point of view, and we felt like if the baby was something that was off-limits to him, he’d be resistant to accepting her. Instead, we wanted Bean to feel like Gracie was a gift just for him. Someone he could play with and hug and kiss and talk to anytime he wanted. Giving him that freedom helped him warm up to her really quickly.
Another thing that really helped was getting Bean a little stool for Gracie’s room. We kept a stool in her nursery that was just for him. He could move it around wherever he wanted so he could see what was going on. He’d drag it over to her changing table when we changed her, or to her crib while we peeked at her when she was sleeping. Giving him something that he could control to help him be part of the process was great for him. He loved her diaper changes and feedings and bedtimes just as much as he loved playing. It made him feel like a big boy.
While making our home life encouraging and comfortable for him was important, it was just as important that our time AWAY from our home was special for Bean, too. About every two weeks or so, Chris and I would leave Nana and Granddad with Gracie Girl, and we’d whisk Bean off for a little one-on-one time. We took him to the park or out for ice cream or to the splash pad. One time, we went to the science museum here in town to see a Curious George exhibit, too. Spending that quality time alone with Bean was good for ALL of us. It reminded me and Chris how cool he was, and it gave Bean a chance to really feel special and loved. Looking back, those little play dates with him were some of my most favorite memories.
Introducing siblings to a new baby can be overwhelming – for you and them! But if you take the time to do it in the right way for your child, it can be the beginning of a really solid foundation between your children.