When telling your eldest child that they have a baby brother or sister on the way, it’s nice to imagine that they will be as overjoyed and excited by the news as you are. In reality, though, every child is different and your son of 10 years is bound to see a new arrival very differently from you. His life (as well as yours) has just been turned upside down and it’s perfectly natural for him to react with confusion, anger and yes, even hurt.
So what can you do if your older son reacts badly to the news of your pregnancy? According to the experts, one thing you definitely shouldn’t do is adopt a “the baby’s coming, try to get over it” approach. You need to acknowledge your son’s emotions, suggests psychologist and author of ‘What Great Parents Do’ Erica Reischer: “Telling kids that’s not how they feel about something never really changes their feelings. Over time, they’ll just be persuaded to never tell you how they’re feeling.” Older kids can articulate their worries, so give your son a chance to share his so you can work on lessening them together.
As well as encouraging your son to express his concerns, a good way to banish his fears and anger about the whole thing is to simply make him feel more involved. If your 10 year old feels as if he is being ignored in all the mayhem of planning for a new baby, let him know what is happening and that he’ll be the best big brother in the world for helping out. Keep reading for more detailed tips on how to prepare your son for a sibling.
What Your 10 Year Old’s Anger and Hurt is Really Masking
When the age gap between your eldest child and your second is so vast, the idea of a sibling – and all that entails – can seem understandably foreign to your firstborn. Your 10 year old son has been an only child and the center of your attention for a decade and naturally, they will have become comfortable with this arrangement. If your son has expressed anger or jealousy at the news of your pregnancy, it is only because he recognizes a change is being thrust upon his usual routine, not only as your child but every facet of his day to day life too.
Some children take more time than others to adjust to change – whereas some young kids may be right on board (even thrilled!) by the prospect of a baby brother or sister, others can feel like their relationship between their parents is shifting. Your son may simply need more time to come around to the idea, which is why it’s so important not to disregard his emotions as silly or immature, but to recognize them for what they are – fear of change and a perceived loss of parental love.
Calming Your Son’s Fears About a New Baby
Some of your son’s fears may manifest themselves in questions like “What if you get too busy to play with me?” or “Will the baby have my room? What if they mess up my toys/my stuff?” You must be prepared for any questions your 10 year old may have about the new baby, and if he is yet to ask anything, you should encourage him to be honest with you about how your pregnancy news has made him feel. Giving your son a space to vent his worries will help him avoid feelings of isolation and prevent a lot of his (temporary) anger and resentment.
Fundamentally, your son worries that everything he used to do – for example, go to karate practice on Tuesdays or go to the park with Dad on Saturday – will suddenly stop. But while you can’t promise everything will stay exactly the same once the baby arrives, your son should know that his activities are important to you and that you will always find time for them. Parent coach Dawn Heubner suggests that you “provide reassurance that there will be enough for everyone – enough love, enough time, enough space, whatever it is that your child is concerned about.”
How to Help Your Son Adjust to Life with a New Sibling
In helping your 10 year old cope with the transition of becoming a big brother, you should balance your interactions with honest talks about the realities of having a baby around the house and what he can expect, but you should also take the time to show that his interests and daily activities still matter to you. Here are some key steps to consider in helping your son move past his anger and distress and into taking on the super cool role of big brother…
Explain why you wanted another child
Firstly, explain in direct and simple terms why you wanted another baby. You never had plans to ‘replace’ your son, you simply wanted to double the joy in your family and give him a companion so he would never be lonely. Use your own sibling relationships as a positive proof that he has fun and friendship to look forward to in life, i.e. “Mom and Uncle Jack are still good friends after all these years. We go to the movies, text each other all the time and make each other laugh” etc.
Consider planning a ‘babymoon’
While traditionally a holiday for expectant couples, a babymoon (a mini vacation to enjoy before the baby arrives) could also be an excellent way to rekindle the bond with your son and ease tension created from all the ‘baby talk’. A mini break away at his favorite vacation spot or maybe a whole day at the zoo or theme park may help him associate positive feelings with the pregnancy and get him excited for the arrival of his sibling.
Remind him that he was a baby once
A powerful way to stop your son’s anger and jealousy in its tracks is to remind him of the time he was once a baby. Parenting expert and child family therapist Meri Wallace suggests getting out his baby pictures and remind him that “in the beginning, you also had to be fed and bathed because you were too little to take care of yourself.” This will help your son, Wallace states, to comprehend that he received “the exact same attention and was equally loved. You should also reassure your eldest child that the baby will be able to do more over time and need you less.”
Inform your son of his superpower as big brother
If news of your pregnancy has upset him, he may not always want to hear about it, but when you do address the baby, try buttering him up by re-framing it as the time your son gets to unleash his superpower. As big brother and the man of the house when Daddy isn’t around, your son gets to be the one to teach the baby all the cool things he has learned to do – draw, play, learn shapes, colors and numbers and tell him about animals. In the eyes of his baby sibling, your son will be the coolest person in the world!
Clue him in on what to expect at each stage
While your son might be able to comprehend the abstract time frame of 9 months ahead, it’s still a long way into the future in a child’s eyes. But you can help break down each stage of your pregnancy to him (if he’s curious) and offer info like “The baby will be due around Christmas, so pretty soon, Mommy will need to decorate the nursery, buy baby toys etc”. Ask your son what he’d like to be involved – does he want to come to an ultrasound appointment with you and see a preview of his baby bro or sis, or would he rather do the fun stuff like painting the nursery with you and choosing the best toys to play with.
Don’t neglect his interests
This may sound like a given, but in the whirlwind of preparing for a new baby and the unpredictability that can come with pregnancy, it can be easy for any parent to take their eye off the ball where their firstborn’s passions and interests are concerned. While your pregnancy poses a time when you’ll need your son, he’ll need you (perhaps more than ever), so let him know that you haven’t forgotten what is important to him. Keep up the routine of taking him to soccer practice, for instance, and when you get too big, show him your support at home by checking in with him about each game, what his favorite moment was etc.
Inevitably, conversations with your son will fall back to the new baby from time to time, but as parent coach Dawn Huebner advises, your mother-son bond can remain strong so long as you remember that the baby “should not be the centerpiece of all interactions” with each other.