You had your world turned upside down by your first child. You are battle scarred, sleep deprived and now expecting number two. Your days of lazy lie-ins and freedom are distant memories, but your life is also very full with the joy your child brings. Prince Harry and Meghan’s have just announced the birth of their new daughter but every day dads and mums are joining the ranks of parents of two kids. So here is the essential Dad Info second child survival kit…
So what to expect?
But what about when you bring a second child into the mix? Is it harder or easier? Is it double the stress? Dad Info is delving into the realities of becoming a parent the second time round; exploring what to expect and asking for advice from an expert.
Second child announcement
Your first baby was met with a fanfare from friends and family but the big reveal of baby number 2 in comparison can feel like a damp squib. With a little creativity you can have fun, though. Print a t-shirt for your older child with the text: Only Child – expiration date *due date*. Or film the moment you share your scan pictures with your first born. Challenge your relatives if they don’t make a fuss, you are going to need the help of your family and friends more than ever so get them involved early.
Will you get less sleep?
Erm…. yes. Because now there are two little people who might need you during the night. Not two mention two little lives to organise and take care of instead of one. So your sleep will suffer and your brain will be busier too.
‘Some good advice is to sleep when you can –those little naps really help’, says Nicola Baldwin, Parenting Lead for Fegans, a charity which supports children and parents. ‘If your older child has a nap, then nap with them-if not sit and watch a film with them so you are resting during the day. If possible, ask your partner to get the children up in the morning or to put them to bed so that you can rest at these times.’
However- the good news is that the night-time sleep disturbance age doesn’t last forever and with organisation it’s possible to adapt to the busy world of a bigger family. Which brings us to…
Will a second child make my life easier or harder?
Multitasking will be your new friend. One child may be asking for a drink while you’re spooning baby food into your other child’s mouth at the same time that the phone is ringing. Having a ‘busy bag’ ready with activities for your older child to do while the younger is feeding, such as colouring books, can really help.
The best plan for coping is to set a routine. Keep to a schedule when you can and ask your partner to help you.
‘Working out a routine that works for both of you means that you can give each other time for self-care and one-to one time with each child’, advises Nicola. ‘Be intentional –prioritise the time you have –if you want a do a work-out then book it into the calendar. Build in time to see/phone friends. Block time out for yourself, your partner, your children, and your family. If you don’t make time for yourself you will be exhausted, irritable and less patient. Young children are very demanding –it can feel relentless-so give yourself the time for you. Plan activities each day with your children –maybe an active activity in the morning and a quiet one in the afternoon. Having a routine means that the children will have things to look forward to each day.’
Also, there will be days when not much gets done at all, and that’s ok.
Will my older child be jealous?
Simple answer: yes! (sometimes). The best advice we received from a seasoned midwife is to make absolutely sure that the very first time you introduce your older child to your baby, to make sure you aren’t holding the new baby. You need to be ready, arms wide to hug your older child. Let your child gently cuddle the baby from day one, encourage them to bring you nappies, show them their toys etc –it is hard for older children to know what to do as baby isn’t ready to play yet. Encourage them to sing to their sibling when you bath/ change nappies and give them lots of bonding time together. Your energetic toddler will surprise you with how sweet their interactions can be with baby.
‘If your older child regresses in their behaviour and becomes more babyish or potty training goes backwards then be accepting of this as a phase,’ says Nicola. ‘Try not to draw attention to it. Concentrate on spending time with them and giving more cuddles. This will pass if you continue to have one-to-one time with your older child and you build their self-esteem by using positive praise.’
Will a second child ruin my marriage/relationship?
The increased stress will change your lives so it’s important to give each other time. To start with this might be just making time to connect over a cup of tea, or a buggy walk with the children can give you time to chat. Work together to ensure that you have time for one another and your relationship. Be honest about things you are finding difficult and ask for help. Remember to hug your partner whenever you get the chance. Plan a date night –have a meal/watch a film together when the children are asleep so you have some couple time. Building this in once a week can be great.
Second child guilt
It is natural and normal to feel some guilt as a result of bringing a new baby home. You might feel like you are losing your special bond with your eldest, or that your time is more stretched. As much as you can, focus on the positives. You are giving your child a life-long friend. You are teaching your child essential life skills: patience and responsibility. If you are feeling overwhelmed by feelings of guilt, or in fact struggling with any negative feelings after the birth of your child ask yourself whether you might have post-natal depression. Here is fellow parent Scott Mair’s story about his post-natal depression.
Second Child Benefit
You can get (subject to certain criteria) an extra £14 per week for your second child once their birth has been registered. It takes 6-12 weeks to process, and can only be backdated 3 months. If the registration of your babies birth is delayed because of Covid-19 you can still apply for child benefits. So don’t delay! Only one partner can claim child benefit, and they also receive credits towards their state pension. So if you are separated from the other parent of your child, or this might need discussion start talking early.
Find out more: https://www.gov.uk/child-benefit/what-youll-get
If your family receives Universal Credit, don’t delay reporting your change of circumstance. For a second child and any other eligible children you’ll get £235.83. Sign in to your account to report the change.
Also, if you are both working (or you are a single parent) earning above minimum wage of at least 16 hours or the equivalent of £1,853.28 over the next three months and aren’t on a workplace childcare voucher scheme, you might be eligible to sign up for tax-free childcare. You can have this even when you are on official shared parental maternity/paternity/adoption leave or maternity allowance. In some cases it is still payable if you are on furlough or claiming SEISS. For every £8 you pay in, the government will add £2 – which is going to really help if you are paying for nursery for two!
Apply here: https://www.gov.uk/tax-free-childcare