How To Prepare Your Toddler For Your New Baby
My middle child is a force to be reckoned with. At two years old, she is bold, vivacious, and incredibly vocal, masha'Allah. She brings me so much laughter with an equal amount of frustration and adoration. When I realized that I was pregnant with my third child, I immediately thought of her. While spirited she is also very sweet, sensitive, and thoughtful. I was very concerned with how she might cope as we welcomed a new baby. Over the months to come, I found ways to affirm her, and I’d love to share them with you.
I know that I am not alone in this experience.
Many parents feel worry for how their children will cope when a new baby hits the scene. The change in family dynamic may be particularly difficult for young children to navigate. Suddenly, they’re no longer the baby - though they may still be working their way through early toddlerhood. At the same time, like my daughter, they may not have reached “big kid” status, placing them somewhere in the middle of two very different experiences. You may be wondering how you can help your child to adjust as easily is possible - here are a few things worth giving a try…
Prepare Your Child
Once you’ve made the decision to share your pregnancy with your child, take the opportunities to prepare him or her as they arise. If your child enjoys reading, be sure to bring books about welcoming a new baby (and about being an older sibling!) into your storytime. Encourage your child to become familiar with the idea of having a baby around. Introducing and engaging your child with a baby doll is a very common and helpful method of discussing baby’s needs and how your child might participate in meeting them. By providing your child ample time to become acclimated to the idea of being an older sibling, you may ease the difficulty that this change might cause your child when baby is finally born. Sibling doulas are an excellent resource for this, as well, and are a priceless investment for many families!
Affirm Your Relationship
While you are expecting, much focus is placed on the new baby to come and many times existing children feel misplaced. To avoid this, it is important that you relate to your child how important he or she is to you during this time. Your child may enjoy hearing stories about when he or she was a baby, and how excited you were to meet them at last! Let your child know how much you enjoy and appreciate them with kind words and acknowledgements. My daughter was very receptive to my reminders that I would always be her mom, and that she would always be my special girl. Find words that your child values, and use them lovingly to affirm their place in your heart.
Spend Quality Time
I attribute much of my daughter’s success in acclimating to her new sister to this tip. During my pregnancy, I made a point of spending time exclusively with her. Together we would go shopping, play dress up, or sprinkle bits of pink princess glitter on her cheeks. Over the months, these small activities grew into daily habits - traditions even. Now, each morning my daughter comes to my room to watch me apply my make up. She dazzles at herself in her small hand mirror, and she sits patiently as I do her hair. Getting ready in the morning with me makes her feel good, and I look forward to it because it’s something that she and I do together each day. Find something that you and your child can look forward to doing together, and during that time place your focus on him or her.
Avoid Applying Pressure
Because you know what awaits you when baby arrives, you may be motivated to move change in your child’s life. For example, you may try to push potty training or move your child to sleeping in his or her own bed. If you’re able to move these changes prior to baby’s arrival, then great job! Be aware, however, that it is very common for children to experience regressions once baby has arrived. If you begin to notice attempts from your child to return to “baby-like” behavior or habits, know that it is common and not cause for concern. Keep in mind that impressing the need for your child to “grow up” may result in feelings of resentment towards the new baby if this behavior is met with discipline or shaming. Try using positive reinforcement when your child does “big kid” things, and ignoring when he or she behaves otherwise.
With the help of close friends, my pediatrician, my experience as a postpartum doula, and - of course - my intuition as her mother, I found that these things worked for my family, and I encourage you to give them a try. Of course, as with every pregnancy, birth, and postpartum period - every child is unique and requires his or her own amount of affirmation. While some children will adjust to their new roles after baby arrives very easily, others may require a bit more encouragement.
What’s most important is that you foster feelings of security, belonging, and love in your child so that he or she can be as open to the changes to come as possible. It will get easier as time passes!
Be sure to check out our Sibling Support board on Pinterest to find additional ideas on how to engage with your child during this transition!