One of the first fears of parents when expecting another baby is how your older children will react. Sibling jealousy is very common and natural. How to prepare Ate will depend on her age and level of interest. As part of your pregnancy planning, here are some tips to help handle and/ or avoid this situation.
1) Tell her the good news and make her one of the first to hear about it.
Share the good news to your firstborn and explain to her that she will be an Ate in a few months. Her new title will make her feel proud. Tell her first and then let her announce the good news to friends and relatives.
2) Involve her as much as possible in the preparations.
It is of utmost importance to not alienate your firstborn during this momentous change. Talk about the coming changes in a very positive light. Make “talking” to the growing bump in your belly a family bonding activity. You can also make her feel the baby move and kick. Discuss possible names and even get her opinion on them. When preparing the baby’s new things, involve her and let her help set up her sibling’s new crib, new toys, etc. This is her baby too and the more involved she is, the more easily she’ll fall in love with her new baby sibling. I loved it when my firstborn talked to my pregnant belly and said, “Shobe (Chinese for little sister) come out na! I want to play with you na!”
Once you’ve given birth, continue involving Ate. This may be a bit harder to do since you’ll now be preoccupied with the new baby and are worried that Ate might do more harm than good. But this is actually the time to pay more attention to your firstborn. Since Ate can’t help out with most of the tasks involving the new baby, find instances where she can. For example when you’re changing the baby’s diaper, ask her if she would like to help mom by getting a new diaper for her little sister. Or she can hold her baby sister’s towel while mom gives the baby a bath. Or make her entertain her new sibling with a song or a dance. These special tasks all contribute in making your firstborn fit into her role of Ate.
Click here tor read more tips on how to prepare your firstborn to become an ate or kuya.
Read more tips on how to prepare your firstborn to become an ate or kuya.
3) Constantly tell her that the baby loves her.
If your firstborn is old enough to ask questions, you may hear queries like “What is she doing mom?” when the baby would kick inside your tummy. The answer I liked to give was, “She’s excited to come out and play with her Achi (Chinese for Ate) na!” Or now that I’ve given birth and my firstborn would ask the same question I’d answer, “She’s looking at her pretty Achi!” Her face would light up and she’d take great delight knowing that her little sister loves her.
4) Big Sister/ Brother books
There are several books that can illustrate the coming changes to your child on a level she can better understand. Cuddle up with Ate and read the book with her. These books can help concretize the new role she’ll be filling very soon.
5) Give her a special doll or stuffed toy.
Get Ate a doll that she can take care of. When you’re busy taking care of the new baby, she can mirror your actions with her “own baby”. For example while mom is rocking the baby to sleep, Ate can do the same with her doll. This way she won’t feel left out or ignored while you tend to the baby. At the same time, you are teaching Ate how to handle your new baby. If you have a boy and he’s still in his toddler or preschool years, you can also give him a stuffed toy (like Barney) for him to take care of.
6) Visit friends and relatives with babies
It might not be clear to Ate that the bump inside mommy’s tummy will soon be her little brother or sister. Show her other babies and explain to her that soon she will have her own baby to love and take care of. Letting her see mom or dad carry other babies can also ease up on the transition that you can carry other babies and still be able to give her the attention and love she needs.
7) Take a trip down memory lane.
Bring out those albums and show your firstborn photos of her when she was a baby. Tell her stories of how she was like when she was a baby and tell her how excited you were when she was born. This will explain to her how she was once a baby who got that special attention and now it’s time for Ate to give that special attention to her new sibling.
8) Be realistic.
Even though you get Ate all excited about her new playmate, set her expectations that the baby will be very small and it will take some time before they can actually play together. Explain to her that mom and dad will have to spend a few nights at the hospital once the baby comes out but she will definitely come and visit. Tell her she can touch the baby’s feet but not her head.
As much as possible, you’ll have to balance your time between the new baby and your firstborn. But if you took care to prepare your firstborn and follow most of the tips for teaching your firstborn child on how to be an Ate or Kuya as early as during your pregnancy, the transition time will be easier on the two of you.
Photography by David Hanson Ong