Our first child will be 22 months old when baby number two arrives in a few short days. The stories of sibling rivalry and general stress during the first few weeks are too numerous to count. “Is your daughter ready for the new baby?” has been the soundtrack to our summer. What could I do to help her get ready for the new baby? I came up with one idea that I believe will make a difference.
I printed a picture of a baby boy as a stand-in for the future baby.
She is only 22 months old which is quite different from a three or four year old who has a stronger grasp on the world. She is, however, getting good at identifying who we are and who she is. We like to play the game “Who is that?” Anytime we are in the living room or at the table we go around and say who is who. “Daddy!”, “Mommy”, and even her own name. This recognition extends to pictures. Looking at the photo gallery on a phone she can label each of us.
She knows who the grandparents are even thought they don’t live with us. So who is to say she can’t know about “a brother” who also lives somewhere else but will be coming to live with us one day? We also quit talking about the new baby coming from Mommy’s belly. My thinking is that it is hard enough to comprehend a new baby let alone where it comes from. (Aren’t there much older children who don’t know where babies come from? Why should I expect my 22 month old to get it?)
Using some sort of visual reinforcement is also important because at 22 months she is squarely in the “mine” phase. Learning about possession and independence is now center stage. Our main concern is that she will have issues with possession with the new baby. Our photo of the baby can be used to reinforce who the crib belongs to, who will be on mommy’s lap, and who will be eating dinner with us. The concept of a brother is quite nebulous and hard to grasp. My hunch is that putting a photo with the term will help her understand there is a recognizable person behind the term “brother”.
The second thing a person will tell you when you have a small child and one on the way is “She is probably too young to know what is going on anyhow.” True, she doesn’t have an idea of what it means to have a baby in the house. But I do think she can comprehend a new member of the family that is coming to live with us, especially when we use this visual representation. I will let you know how it goes.