First person: Helping my son adjust to his newborn sibling

I knew I had made a major parenting mistake when my 2-year-old son visited me in the hospital after I had given birth to his newborn brother. He pursed his lips and flat out refused to talk to me. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of sadness. Then, I just felt stupid.

Why didn't I do more to prepare my older son for having a newborn sibling? I'd heard about sibling classes to help older brothers or sisters adjust to a new baby in the house. I'd even heard of special classes to help pets adjust to a newborn.

My son seemed angry and scared. I wanted to cry when he wouldn't say a word during his entire visit to the hospital recovery room after I had delivered his brother by emergency c-section. He wouldn't respond to my questions and he wouldn't hug me.

Dealing with separation anxiety

I thought I'd have plenty of time to explain the concept of a new baby in the house. I didn't realize my older son would experience some separation anxiety since I had to stay in the hospital longer than expected after the unplanned c-section. Also, I didn't know his baby brother would also have to stay at the hospital for an extended stay to treat jaundice. My older son wasn't used to being away from me for more than an hour at the most. Now he had to deal with three days of having me away from the home.

Turning back the hands of time

Like many parents, I wish I could turn back the clock and have another shot at what turned out to be a pivotal parenting moment. If I had another chance, I'd definitely sign my son up for the sibling classes to welcome home a newborn. I would have read him books that explain the process of pregnancy and birth. In addition, I'd take him with me to spend time with some of my friends who had babies. I think it would have greatly boosted my toddler's self-confidence if he had a chance to help hold a baby in his arms before his brother came home. I'd also have taken my 2-year-old with me on a tour of the hospital and birthing suites.

Moving on with life

Some of my favorite photographs are ones that show my older son giggling as he played with his younger brother. After we got through the rough patch of the labor, delivery and recovery, things settled down. My older son seemed thrilled to have a new playmate. Moreover, my younger son was a quiet, cheerful baby who made life easier. As they grew older, the two siblings became best friends.

As a parent who isn't perfect, I've made a lot of mistakes through the years. I could have prevented some of the mistakes by taking a moment to look at a situation from my child's perspective. How might he feel about a circumstance, decision, comment or change? What could I do to make any major changes or transitions easier for him to understand at his age and stage? I can't undo my parenting mistakes, but I can move forward and share what I learned with my relatives and friends who are expecting. What can you expect when you are expecting? A lot of life lessons.

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