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Preparing your teenager for a new sibling

Maria Fernandes

When you have a teenaged child and are expecting a new baby, it is not easy at different levels especially when it comes to your teenaged child/children. Most parents are clueless about how to introduce the idea of the baby’s arrival to their teenager. Some think that since the teen is old enough they will deal with the issue and have no insecurities or problems. This is not always the case and tact, time and patience are often called for.

Many teenagers occupy a world where their parents are a real embarrassment. Add to it a mum with a baby bump, and they feel it is the end of the world! “How can my parents do this to me? Don’t they realise how weird it is going to be for me? What were they thinking,” asks an angry teenager while sharing her reactions to the news of the new arrival.

Counsellors advise that parents should be prepared for any reaction. Some may react with excitement, others with shock, or disbelief or even anger. “When I told my 14-year-old son that I was expecting a baby he reacted so badly and refused to talk with me for a few days and even then with so much of disgust,” says a very distressed mother. Well it is not easy for the teenager either! Parents must give their teenagers time to think and prepare and not take hostile or unsure reactions personally or too emotionally. Remember, that while you are seeing a new child, your teen might be seeing a competitor, so before you take their stance personally, look at the situation from their perspective as well.

A few tips that could help in this situation are:

Start spending more exclusive time with your teen, to help reassure them that baby or no baby; they are still and always will be your number one priority. Build on your relationship now so you can fall back on it when the baby finally arrives.

Include them in the situation so they feel confident and secure. Request them to help you plan and decorate the nursery, and go shopping with them for baby stuff. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have a readymade babysitter at home now. Your teenager may consider it an invasion, not just into their space but freedom as well.

Many times the news of a baby might be welcomed by your teenager but it is when they think of their friends and their reactions that they begin to react negatively. The fear of being ridiculed by friends can be very challenging. It is after all a realisation that your parents are sexual people. Talking about this is the best you can do. The more open your communication is with your teen the better the chances of this becoming a celebration of new life and less about ‘how could you do this to me?’

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