Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Tips on How to Prepare a Child to Be an Older Sibling

He was used to being an only child. For three years, he had my undivided attention. We had a lot of time bonding with each other through play, conversations, books, storytelling, crafts, music time, dates, etc. He certainly was the apple of my eye. 

Then, I learned that I'm pregnant again. 

I did my best to still bond with him a lot and assure him that I still love him just the same. I searched big brother books that I can read to him. I was grateful I found one. 

I talked to him about his baby brother in my womb. I let him play music and sing songs to him. 

I brought him with me in my monthly visits to my ob-gynaecologist. We let him join us in some of the ultrasound sessions. 

He seemed excited and adjusting well to his role of becoming a big brother.

Then, it was time for me to give birth to my second child. My eldest son stayed at my parents' house. He slept with my parents when I went to the hospital. It was a difficult time for him. He was not used to sleeping without me by his side. He cried a lot during the nights that I was in the hospital going through labor and recuperating from childbirth.

But he was happy when he saw me again and his baby brother when he visited us in the hospital.

Two weeks after I gave birth, he acted differently. My usually active and talkative little boy didn't have the energy to play. He didn't want to eat or drink. He was not talking. He just kept sleeping and lying in bed. I knew something was wrong. I thought that he was sick but he didn't have any fever or was not showing signs that he was in pain.

A few days later, he was so weak. My husband decided to bring him to the hospital already.

His pediatrician had him confined. He was put on IV. He still didn't talk or eat or drink. He was still quiet and looked sad. He lost a lot of weight.

The doctors could not find any reason for his loss of appetite or "sickness" other than probably his difficulty in adjusting to our new normal in the family. He now has a baby brother. He's no longer an only child. His mommy is busy caring for another child. His mommy is breastfeeding another baby. 

He was not suffering from physical pain but he was going through an emotional pain... something that he could not articulate. Something he was not prepared to process or express.

He must have been depressed at that time. 

My poor little boy... I thought he was ready for this change but he was not.

It was a painful time for me as a mother. I was not even able to visit him in the hospital because I needed to stay with his baby brother. It was only my husband and my mom who stayed with him in the hospital. I stayed home to recuperate and take care of the new baby.

I did my best to give him extra attention. I tried to be extra understanding and patient with him. I tried to do the same things we used to do so he would feel that my love hasn't changed.

Eventually, he started eating again. He started talking and playing again. He was the loving and helpful big brother again to his younger sibling.

He would sing songs to him. He would read his books to him. He talks to him and shares some of his toys with him. He helps take care of him by rushing to get new diapers or getting some of the things of the baby and bringing them to me.  

I'm so thankful that my eldest child eventually recovered from that emotional turmoil. 

Almost three years later, I got pregnant again. My eldest son will become a big brother for the second time. My second child will no longer be the baby. He will now be a big brother.

I didn't want any or both of them to go through depression again or to get sick after I give birth. 

How can I assure them of my unchanging love? How can I prepare them for their upcoming sibling? 

I thought that I should tell them often that I love them just the same. But how do I remind myself or ensure that I tell them these words often when I have a lot to do and prepare for the coming of our new baby?

Since I had been writing poems almost all my life, I wrote a poem with this title: Mommy Loves You Just the Same.

I drew inspiration from my bonding times with my kids.

I read the poem often to them, daily at least.

I believe that the poem helped my older kids prepare for the coming of their baby brother. My second child did not get sick after I gave birth even though he and his eldest brother were also crying a lot while I was in the hospital during childbirth and on the nights that followed.

I'm so glad things were better this time around.

Then, a dream was planted in my heart. What if we make this poem into a children's book? Why not?

Before my youngest child turned one year old, I found an artist who was willing to collaborate with me in making this dream a reality. On May 19, 2016, Thursday, we will be launching my first children's book! A dream that was planted in my heart because of my experience as a mother. It's like I'm giving birth again. But this time to a book and not to a child. 
Click here to order a copy of Mommy Loves You Just the Same.

My excitement is shared by my two older children who were my inspirations in writing this children's book. They were the ones who first heard this story and who first benefitted from it. 

Are you a pregnant mom who is looking for resources that would help your older child prepare to be an older sibling? Or did you just give birth recently or a few months ago to a new baby and you need help in assuring your older child that your love for him/her remains the same? 

I recommend this book to you, not because I wrote it, but more because I know that it would be a good tool that you can use in your motherhood journey. One of my goals in writing this children's story is to help families adjust as their families grow. That's why I asked our illustrator to make coloring pages for the kids, too. I wanted to give the kids something that would further help them remember the lessons in the book. 

Before I end this post, let me share some tried and tested tips that could help prepare a child to be an older sibling.

1. Stop calling the child "baby". We used to call our second child "baby". But when we got confirmation from my ob-gynaecologist that I'm pregnant again, we started calling our second child by his first name. I also instructed our maids then to stop calling him a baby. Instead, we made him proud to be called a big brother or "Kuya".

2. Deliberately spend more quality time with the older child/children. This is one way to make deposits in your child's emotional bank account in preparation for the times when you will be away from him/her. During my previous pregnancies, I did my best to spend as much time as I possibly can to do arts and crafts with them and to have dates with them. Even when I was on bedrest and after giving birth, I would regularly read-aloud books to them. This poem/story was one of those that I read to them.

3. Give your child/children ideas on how they can bond with you while you are pregnant and with their baby brother while still in your womb and after you give birth. Aside from suggesting to my kids what they can do, I let them come up with their own ideas on how they can help me take care of their baby brother. You'll be amazed at how loving and helpful kids are!

4. Make their birthday before you give birth extra special. On their last birthday before becoming a big brother, I always go out of my way to make these celebrations memorable. I want these events to help make them feel important and special. You may read about my second child's birthday party here. If you don't want to throw a party, you can get some ideas here in my other blog post wherein we had a simple celebration for our eldest son.  

Hope these tips help you and your family! I also hope that you can join us in our virtual book launch on Thursday! We're giving away exciting prizes to those who will pre-order a copy of Mommy Loves You Just the Same. Click here to read more about these. 

Some of the prizes we're giving away during the launch.

How did you prepare your child/children to become older siblings? Feel free to share your own tried and tested tips by leaving a comment on this blog post so we can help more families.