Having a second child often seems like a complete rehash of how everything happened the first time around. Your wife finds out that she’s pregnant, you go to prenatal appointments, and you start decorating a new bedroom. When the time comes, you rush her off to the hospital and help her greet a beautiful new son or daughter into the world. Then you arrive home and suffer through a couple months that fall among the most exhausting, busy, and rewarding in your life. One minute you’re telling your wife that she should think about donating eggs rather than having more kids; the next, you’re saying that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to have a third child.
But there’s one difference this time around: you already have a kid at home. Even amidst all the commotion surrounding your second-born’s birth and first few months home, your oldest child is going to need care and attention. He’s going to need explicit displays of affection and reassurances that he is still loved just as much as before. While different children react in different ways to the birth of a younger sibling, it is almost inevitable that they will feel jealous and upset from time to time. Such jealously is only more likely to occur if you and your wife spend all your time caring for the new infant.
This is where the father’s role because especially crucial. Although both parents are certainly responsible for the care of an infant, and although you’re probably just as likely to change a diaper in the middle of the night as is your spouse, the wife usually becomes the prime caregiver to a new baby. You can’t nurse the baby, after all, and your wife probably has a better handle on his needs after carrying him around for the previous nine months. As the father, your role is to consequently become the prime caregiver to your elder child. In this capacity, you need to insure that your older son or daughter feels adequately loved and cared for in the face of a major life change. Spend one-on-one time with them. Go out for outings or play a new game. Make sandwiches together and head out to the park. When trying to avert a jealousy situation, a little bit of personalized time can go a long way.
There’s no question that your new baby will demand your attention, and that you will to help your wife whenever possible by providing care. But don’t forget the needs of your first-born. As the father, you are best equipped to address them at this time.
[About the author: Jenna is a student in Saint Louis. Upon graduation, she hopes to travel the world while producing compelling content for the masses. When she isn’t writing, you can find Jenna with her nose in a book, or her headphones in to block out the rest of the world.]
Image: Spirit-Fire at Flickr