How to prepare a toddler for a new baby
Having a new baby is a huge event for every family. It is important to remember that parents are not the only people whose lives are going to change 180 degrees. Older children are rarely prepared for the shock of having a sibling unless their parents know how to do that. As parents, we want our children to have as stress-free childhood as possible. There have been numerous studies on the impact of stress on a child’s development.
Imagine now that you are 2 or 3 years old and everything seems new and scary. Even your emotions are a bit scary as you cannot control them. You have one safe place, where everything always seems all right – your mommy’s arms. And suddenly one day you need to share your mommy with another child, a baby. A baby you can’t even play with as it’s too little and fragile, which only cries and poos or takes your mommy away. Seems like a shock, doesn’t it?
But don’t fret. If you as a parent take the right steps in advance, you can prepare your toddler (or an older child as well) for the new baby.
Most of the ideas below are mine, but I also found this article in “The bump” inspiring.
1. Look at the situation from the child’s perspective
We know that the baby needs more of our time. We do, but the older sibling does not. He may feel lonely, jealous or even rejected if left to deal with the situation alone. Our emotional support is vital both before the baby arrives home and after your children finally meet. Don’t let your emotions take control if he says he hates the baby. After all, she’s the reason he cannot spend more time with his mommy. Acknowledge his feelings, talk about them and teach him how to deal with them. With time and your help, he will accept the new situation. When the baby grows big enough to play with, the siblings will grow an unshakeable bond.
2. Prepare your toddler (or an older child) in advance
In order to lessen the shock, we need to prepare our child for what is going to happen when the baby arrives home. Toddlers, even very young ones, usually understand most of what we say to them, although they may not be able to talk yet. The language we use should be simple and comprehensive. We shouldn’t talk only about the upsides – if we make our toddler expect a playtime companion from day 1, he may be even more disappointed. We should explain that the baby will be very small and fragile at the beginning and that she will need a lot of care from mommy and daddy. And that she will cry most of the time. But ensure your older child, his sibling will grow fast and in no time they will be able to play with simple toys like rattles or stuffed animals.
It may also be a good idea to visit a friend or relative who has an infant with your toddler. This way he will be able to see how such a small baby behaves.
Take care of his emotions
There are some skills a toddler may lack which are worth developing before the baby is born. These are waiting and sharing. If you have only one child, you are usually at his back and call simply because you can. It may be a good idea just to make him wait a bit when he calls you. Also, it is always good when you praise every single instance of sharing his toys with another child.
To make sure your child doesn’t feel left out or rejected after the baby is born, you can create a daily ritual of your special time. It might be book reading during bedtime or playing games during the day, or whatever other activity you both enjoy. It will be great if you start the habit before and keep it up after the new family member arrives.
Read also “Why should I read to my child?”
3. Make sure your toddler feels important, too
When the mother comes back from the hospital, the older children should feel special, too. They’ve missed mommy and they will feel great if she tells them she missed them as well. Also, older children (especially toddlers, teens maybe not so much) will feel nobilitated if we give them “important jobs” such as bringing wet wipes or picking up the pacifier. Being the Big Brother or Big Sister should sound very serious, but the tasks should be fun and easy. What’s also important, since we’ve taught our toddler to wait, the baby can sometimes wait, too.
Having a new baby brings a lot of changes in the life of the whole family. When everyone seems to be focusing only on your youngest, it is vital for the other kids to show them that they haven’t disappeared for us. This way we not only protect the, from feeling rejected but also contribute to building their self-confidence, reliability, as well as creating a bond between the siblings.