I live in India which is home to more than a billion people today. Nuclear families, consisting of the parents and two kids, are the order of day. In our family I was the elder kid. My sister was born two years later. My mom had a hands-on style of parenting, wherein she would be always around the two of us.
Coming to think of it now, she was in a land where she could not speak the native language too well and her husband (my dad) would be on tour for 20 days a month. So we were her world and hence she had a hands-on approach. Obviously, parenting styles have evolved from the time when I was a kid. I often wondered how parents and the elder kid(s) react to the news of a second kid coming in the family.
I got an outsider’s view on this when about a year ago my wife and I met Suresh, our driver, who doubled up as our tour guide in Kerala. He had just finished a tour with another family on the previous day and was at the airport picking us up for the 6 day long trip. While chatting with him we got to know he had become a dad for the second time 15 days back. He was a happy father. The ‘girl child’ now completed his family and his son has a sister to play with.
I asked him about how his son took to the news of the second kid coming and how is it now that she is finally a part of the family. That is when I learnt the best thing ever heard about parenting. Suresh simply chuckled and said, “Sir, I have told my son that, in my absence, he is the man of the house. When I am away on tours, he has to look after the new-born and his mom too. Although, he is only 5 years old, he understands what I mean and he is already growing up. Whenever, I call my wife, I don’t ask her, ‘how is the new-born doing?’ Instead, I ask my son that question. He is the one who gives me the report of what the kid did all through the day”.
Suresh went on to tell us how this talk between him and his son has changed his son’s behaviour. His son would earlier play all through the day only bothering to come back home when his stomach grumbled for the want of something to eat. But now he is generally around the house and doesn’t go too far off to play with his friends. He is always around and is happy to be of help to his mom.
The news of a second kid coming along, dos and don’ts around the new-born, are some of the very basic things the elder kid needs to know. How the news is conveyed about such a ‘change’ in the family is up to the parents. The elder kid should not feel left out. I believe, if at all the elder kid is about 4-5 years older than the one to come, he/she should be involved in the process in whichever small way the parents deem right.
At the same time, care should be taken that the elder kid enjoys his childhood too and doesn’t unduly crush it under the new ‘responsibility’. Suresh also remarked that by making the elder kid aware of the ‘responsibility’ of the younger one, we try to inculcate sibling bonding. The elder kid then understands that the younger one is in his team always. Isn’t that a win-win situation for parents and for kids?
Often with the second kid arrival, the time becomes a precious commodity for the parents. There is more to do than one can imagine. Just think, if you have the elder kid helping out in a few small matters of the routine tasks how much relief that would provide.
Listening to Suresh’s tips, my mind was filled with the memories of the days when me and my sister were kids. But then that is for another day.
Ashok Chandrashekar works in the IT industry in India. Loves travelling, photography and blogging when he is not sleeping. Happily married for almost a year now. He is here to observe and learn from other parents. This knowledge will surely be helpful for the future. 🙂