How to Prepare Your Toddler for a New Baby
I want to take you back to your days in high school. Imagine, if you will, falling in love with a handsome guy who is perfect in every way. You went everywhere together – the park, the movies, the mall, etc. He cooked for you, took you on romantic horseback rides, and even folded your laundry. He took care of you when you needed him, was always there for you when you needed a shoulder to lean on, and most of all, loved you in every way possible. As time went by, you grew together closer as a couple, and the relationship continued for at least a year, two years, or even longer.
Now, imagine that Mr. Perfect started changing. He had gained a little weight, but that didn’t bother you. His mind seemed a little more clouded and sometimes he had trouble focusing – again, not a huge deal, until one day, he came up to you and announced:
“I want to see other people.”
What did he mean by that? You had poured your heart and soul into this relationship, and you were the happiest you could ever be. You thought he was happy too, so why did he need anyone else? Who was she? You did not understand.
Then one day, you saw her. Okay, you had to admit, she was cute. She had big eyes, pouty lips, and an adorable smile. She seemed to have a good personality as well, not that you really cared to know her better. But man, was she needy and clingy. Mr. Perfect seemed to be with her all the time, taking care of her every demand. He barely had any alone time for you and you missed him very much.
Now, imagine the jealousy bubbling inside you when you see Mr. Perfect peck the new girl on the cheek and hug her like she is the most precious little thing ever. Imagine the rage your feel when you see her wearing your old blouse that you left at his place. Wouldn’t you act out and try and get his attention?
It’s difficult for a child to understand why all of a sudden there is a new baby in the family. While there is no strategy that would make the child understand completely what it means to have a new sibling, we as parents can do as much as we can to soften the shock.
This post contains affiliate links, for more info click here.
- Let your child help in preparing the baby’s room. Let him pick out furniture, toys, and decorations so he feels excited that he is included in the decision-making process.
- Get your child used to being with your significant other. We planned daddy-son dates so that Alex would be used to spending one-on-one time with daddy and not question why all of a sudden mommy is not spending as much time with him once the baby is here.
- Is your child a bookworm? Alex is! Read books about childbirth and babies and ask your child if he/she has any questions. Here are some great books to check out (I listed the big brother versions but there should be the big sister versions for these books):
- Show your child photos of when he/she was a little baby. This helps them understand that a tiny little human is about to come out of you and you will need to take care of the baby, just like you did when he/she was just born. Tell your child stories of him/she spitting up milk, crying, laughing, etc. so that he/she would expect the baby to be doing the same.
- Set the expectations and paint a realistic picture for your child. I know we have a tendency to try and hype things up and say things like, “Your little sister is going to be your best friend! You two will do everything together and play together!” That may be the case a few years down the road, but your child will expect that right off the bat. So instead explain to your child that the baby will not be able to play with him/her right away so that he/she is not disappointed when the newborn is not able to play hide-and-seek.
After the Baby Arrives
Now, remember the high school scenario. Even if Mr. Perfect had prepared you for the arrival of Ms. Too-Cute-For-Words, it does not mean you would not feel a slew of emotions when you first see her. Keep this in mind as you introduce the baby to your child and maintain your patience as your child works through his/her emotions.
- When your spouse brings your older child to the hospital to see the new baby, spend as much time with him/her as possible. Give your child lots of cuddles and kisses, and give him/her a chance to hold the baby.
- Buy a gift for your child that is from the baby. This gives your child a positive association with the baby’s arrival. To this day my son still tells me randomly that his sister gave him Thomas the Train when she was born.
- Leaving a newborn is difficult, especially if you are breastfeeding. However, try to spend with your older child without the baby, even if it’s just 10 minutes at a time.
- Let your older child participate in taking care of the baby. Ask your child to help you get the diaper or wipes, fill the baby’s bathtub, read to the baby, etc. Make your child feel special and important that he/she is able to assume the position of a responsible, helpful older sibling.
- Talk to your newborn about your older child. For example, if something Alex did made Zoe laugh, I would say, “Isn’t Alex so funny Zoe? Isn’t he such a great older brother for making you laugh?” Having the praise come from the baby instead of mommy helps enhances the bond between the siblings.
- Give your older child extra hugs and kisses every day. Try and put your baby down and have your child sit on your lap instead of the baby a few times a day if possible. This way, he/she doesn’t feel like the baby is creating a barrier between him/her and mommy.
Having a new baby in your older child’s life is difficult. We need to help him/her through the transition as much as possible. Your older child has now been promoted to the very important role of being an older sibling, and with the proper support and lots of love, he/she will excel in that role.
Oh and by the way… Congratulations on your new baby!
How did your child handle the transition to becoming an older sibling? What else did you do to help your older child with getting used to the new baby?