We are coming to the end of our series on what the research says about the transition from only to big sib. So here is the final point.
Point 8: Identify sources of help and support – it will benefit you as a parent and your child too!
Unfortunately, research suggests that experienced moms (that’s you, if you are on to #2!) feel just as stressed as newbies during pregnancy and the first month after the baby is born, but they receive less support than first-time moms. That’s too bad, because research also shows that second-time moms are happier and less stressed when they have a strong support network. Let’s face it – having a newborn is tough and so is figuring out how to juggle the needs of a newborn and an older child. We can all use some help!
Having others to talk to, who will empathize and encourage you, is important, and so is having a place to turn for information about helping your older child adjust. (So, come on over! We’re always here!) But even more helpful seems to be “material support” – someone to babysit, bring a meal, or help with household chores. (Sorry, can’t help much with that one!)
How does this affect your older child? As I mentioned in earlier posts, your well-being directly impacts your child’s adjustment! A little help from others, which can relieve some of your stress and fatigue, will benefit your child immensely. On top of that, having time with other important adults in her life (like a grandparent or close family friend) gives your child an opportunity to build relationships and having a supportive relationship with “outside adults” will contribute to your child’s resilience in general.
Support comes in many forms, so give some thought to what you need most. Not everyone has the luxury of extended family nearby to help out (I didn’t!), but there are other ways to find some relief. Here are just a few ideas:
- Find a mom-and-baby support group. Many hospitals have these groups. You can also check your newspaper or search on-line for groups in your area. This is a great way to meet regularly with other moms.
- If you can afford it, hire someone to clean your house for the first several weeks so that you don’t have to worry about it. (This was my dream that didn’t come true!)
- If visitors ask “What can I bring?” before stopping by, tell them! They are asking because they want to be helpful. Let them run an errand for you or pick up lunch, so that you have one less thing to do.
- Use parenting web-sites and blogs to find information about how other moms juggle the challenges of two children or to ask questions. I loved The Leaky B@@b group on Facebook – you can post a question at 3:00 a.m. and someone is bound to be on-line! I’m sure there are other similar groups.
- Take a half-hour “off” each day. Hand the kids to your partner and call a friend or loved one to vent or gush, depending on your mood.
- Put the baby in a stroller and meet a friend for a walk. You’ll get some exercise and have a chance to connect.
I would love to hear what kind of help and support you all found most helpful after having a baby!
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This is the eighth and final post in a series on what research says about how kids handle the transition from only child to big sibling. The series is based largely on a summary by Dr. Brenda Volling published in the Psychological Bulletin on-line in January 2012.