BEIJING, May 28 -- After Wang Qian gave birth to her baby girl, her two-year-old son visited her in hospital. Wang passed a present to the boy, telling him, "This is a gift from your little sister."
As a former employee of an educational NGO, Wang has been tactfully preparing her son to accept and love his sister since day one of her pregnancy.
While this is a common issue for parents around the world, readjusting single children to life with a sibling is a novel need in China. With birth restrictions having been relaxed only recently, a new generation of two-child families is emerging in Chinese society.
The new parenting challenge is being placed in the spotlight ahead of International Children's Day on Sunday.
Mei Qixia, a mental health therapist with the Children's Hospital of Chongqing Medical University, says Chinese parents face particular difficulties because the societal norm has come to be that the first child is the only child. Accordingly, they have always got 100 percent of their parents' love and attention.
Until recently. China's family planning policy was introduced in the late 1970s to rein in the surging population by limiting most urban couples to one child.
The restriction was relaxed, first in 2011, when couples in which both members were a single child were allowed to give birth a second time. It was further eased in November, when couples were permitted to have a second child if only one of them was an only child.
To Mei Qixia's relief, young Chinese parents are gaining greater awareness of what it takes to raise two kids.
Such parents, most of them only children themselves, are also acutely aware of the reputation that China's single-child generation has for being self-centered and spoiled. So they are putting more effort into raising children with generosity.
Wang Qian is regarded as exemplary among her fellow moms of two babies who gather to talk in a group set up on online messaging service WeChat.
To adapt her son to having a sibling, Wang bought a variety of illustrated books narrating stories involving brothers and sisters. "I want him to understand that having siblings is a happy thing," she says.
She also played games with her son on a regular basis throughout her pregnancy, even during the most difficult periods.
Now, she continues to teach him that he is loved by his toddler sister, using the mantra "Look, you always put a big smile on your sister's face."
"We want him to feel proud of being a big brother," Wang explains. Indeed, her son does feel that way, often asking people "Isn't my sister cute?'"
Wang also encourages the boy to feed his sister.
Wang's parenting ingenuity pays. "When I take him to kindergartens or training classes, he is often praised by other moms for sharing food and toys, and the moms attribute his virtue to having a sister."
Cao Ruina, a freelance translator in Beijing, gave birth to a baby girl when her first-born son was seven. Having basked in exclusive parental love for seven years, the boy now occasionally feels less adored.
However, Cao says each time he complains about getting less attention, she tells him that his sister is too young to take care of herself whereas he is much more capable.
Cao copes with the challenge by lavishly hailing whatever her son does to care for the baby girl, rather than pointing out his mistakes.
To her gratification, the two kids generally get along well. They play hide-and-seek, watch 'Teletubbies' together, and the boy always insists on pushing the baby stroller.
"He pushes it like a racing car, I'm afraid the girl will get motion sickness," Cao jokes.
Dai Ling, a mother in Chongqing who had a second baby only days ago, now tends to be more forgiving to her elder son. "We hope he will not feel neglected or get the impression that his parents' love for him has changed," she says.
Dai also let their five-year-old boy, Yuyu, name his little brother. Yuyu chose "Snail," after the most endearing and good-hearted character he knows from comic books.
It is because of such successes that Mei Qixia is confident that a new "two-child generation" will grow to be more caring and have better camaraderie than its predecessors.