Keep Love Alive: How to Stay Close to Your First Child After Your Second Baby Arrives

By Jennifer Bingham Hull
http://www.growingafamily.com

Perhaps more than anything else, a woman having a second baby fears losing her special connection to her firstborn. Will the beloved child who was once your one and only get lost in the shuffle as the family grows? Is she already getting short shrift now that the new baby is here?

It’s enough to make a mom feel so guilty that she thinks she’s got to take her older child to Disney World. Yet who has the time or energy for special outings after having a second child? As the family grows, you need simple strategies to keep love alive, not new things to add to your to do list.

The following tactics helped me stay close to my older daughter after her sister was born. Six years later, I still rely on some of them. The result: my firstborn and I are tight and she’s a fabulous big sister. I’m close to my younger girl too:

*Greet your older child first. An infant’s tiny wail will always claim your attention. And babies are so cute! Hug your older child first when you enter a room. The baby won’t know the difference, but your firstborn will appreciate the attention.

*Get in cahoots. Early on I developed a habit of looking at my older daughter and rolling my eyes when little sister did something silly. With a glance, I recognized my older girl’s special status as the more mature child. The new baby became the source of shared amusement rather than a threat.

*Do errands together. In Beyond One I describe preserving my relationship with my firstborn by making her my errand girl after little sister’s birth. Doing errands with her while dad or a sitter tended the baby gave us time alone and allowed me to get things done. Now she’s 8 and guiding me around Target!

*Get down. Kneel. Sit on the floor. Crouch by the bath. Do what it takes to make direct eye contact with your older child. Enter her world. Otherwise you’re always the mom standing holding the baby.

*Seize the moment. Is Dad diapering the baby? Read a short book to your firstborn. Is the little one content in the bouncy seat? Cook with your older child. Look for opportunities to focus one-on- one attention on your firstborn. A few shared minutes can do wonders.

*Make the baby a joint project. It’s messy and inefficient. But having the toddler help give the baby a bath can bring you together — though you won’t have a hand free to photograph the event. Ask your older child to wash the baby’s feet, not her head!

*Give time, not toys. Stuff just sends the signal that something is wrong with adding another child to the family. Avoid buying new “big sister” toys for your older child — unless you’re purchasing something to do together. Remember, money can’t buy you love.

(c) 2010 Jennifer Bingham Hull. Reprint rights granted as long as the article is published in its entirety, including the resource box and its live links.

About the Author

Jennifer Bingham Hull is an award-winning author and mother of two. Her book, Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life, looks at life after the second child. To learn more, visit www.growingafamily.com, where you can contact her to receive this Parenting Tips column and sign up for her free newsletter.

About Jennifer

A former journalist for The Wall Street Journal and Time, Jennifer is the award-winning author of Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life and pens the MidAge Mom blog.

She’s profiled exceptional women from the Middle East to Latin America. Widely published, her essays have been included in two anthologies.

Jennifer is also a frequent radio and TV guest. Full Bio

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In Beyond One, Jennifer chronicles her leap from one child to two, describing the enormous impact the second child has on a woman’s body, marriage, family life, friendships and work.

"Hull is the kind of woman many moms long to be friends with. . ." -The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Credits

The Wall Street Journal, Time, The Atlantic Monthly, CNN.com, MS., Parenting, Real Simple, Salon.com, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Working Mother, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, American Way, Brain, Child, The Christian Science Monitor, and more.