The arrival of your first child is a huge deal. You do all the reading and the research and the shopping and the decorating and the sanitizing and all the things to prepare. Then the second comes along and, if you’re like me, there’s not so much prep work because 1. who’s got time for that while chasing a toddler around? and 2. you’ve been there, done this, mama, and you feel like it’ll just all come back to you (and you may even realize that all that time and effort the first time didn’t make parenting a newborn any easier!).
One major factor that’s new the second time around is that it’s not just you and your partner preparing for baby’s arrival, but also your first little one. Now I will say, I have a hard time doling out advice, because I only have two kids (and zero experience with babies outside of them) so I always think there are lots of moms out there who know better. But then I remember that there is no family that transitions from 1 to 2 children more than once, so no one is really more of an expert than another on this topic! We fortunately (and surprisingly) had a really great transition from 1 to 2, and I’ve talked to plenty of friends whose experiences didn’t go as well. So, I feel it’s my duty to share these nuggets of wisdom that I received (I definitely can’t take credit for coming up with them myself) in case they will help others out there!
#1: Forget what they say about not comparing your children, and vocally compare your first child’s experience to their little brother/sister’s (at your child’s level of comprehension)
Leading up to and after Baby #2’s birth, remind #1 that you did all of these things for her/him, too. Kids always want to feel special and loved, obviously, and if they see you doting on the new baby and taking time away from them, jealousy or resentment can lurk. Really little ones won’t benefit as much from this practice, but if your child is 2ish+ they will. Tell them, “Oh I remember doing xyz while we were getting ready for you to be born!” Or “You used to do that exactly like your brother, isn’t that funny?!” At least for my daughter, knowing that she got all the love and attention that her brother did helped her embrace his arrival into our family. And also knowing that SHE, too, cried a lot, slept a lot, etc. taught her that the things that may be frustrating or annoying to her are normal and will pass (because she doesn’t do that anymore does she? Of course not!).
#2: In the early stages, if they both need you at the same time, help the older child first
Caring for two small humans is demanding. There’s hardly a moment when one or the other doesn’t need you, and it’s not uncommon for both to need you at the same time (I use the term “need” a little loosely; maybe “demand your attention” is a better term). If you have the luxury of a partner present, absolutely take the man-to-man approach. But if you’re on your own, which no doubt will happen quite often, get the older child situated first and then attend to the baby (of course assuming baby is not in an emergency situation!). I didn’t hear this tip until several weeks into parenting two, and it really helped me. For one, it gave me a strategy when I was feeling overwhelmed. And in the end, it worked really well. The baby doesn’t remember or get their feelings hurt if they have a wet diaper or cry from hunger for two extra minutes. But the older child very well may, and you may even get the joy of whining or a tantrum to accompany it! We all can use less whining or fewer tantrums in our lives, amiright?
So there you have it. Two great tips that helped my family transition incredibly well from one to two children. If you’re curious, my daughter was just about 2.5 when my son was born, and almost two years later they are still each other’s absolute biggest fan. Who knows, our happy transition could have been just luck the whole time – but whether it was luck or these strategies, we’ll never know.
Good luck in your transition to two. And if you’ve got other tactics that were successful for your family, please feel free to share in the comments!