Having your second child brings with it beautiful moments that are different from those you experienced with your first. One particular joy is watching your two children meet each other, bond, and build a relationship. That said, it’s not unusual for your toddler to take a while to adapt to the newborn. After claiming all of your attention and affection for their whole life, having to now share that love with your new baby can sometimes evoke feelings of or neglect in your toddler. This is natural and will fade quickly. Still, there are some steps that you can take ahead of delivery to prepare your toddler for this change in their life that I’ll walk you through now.
- The first step is to tell your toddler in an appropriate and sensitive way. You know your toddler and their maturity level best so how you decide to break the news will be unique to you. It’s a good idea to frame the news as a celebration, something that the whole family should be excited about. Keep upbeat and happy while making sure to monitor their reactions. Older children, as in over 2 or 3, can handle more information so explaining to them why you might be feeling sick or tired in the coming months is a good idea. It may be better to wait a bit longer to tell younger children as they’re less likely to figure it out for themselves. Then, upon telling them, linking the baby to something concrete like your bump is a good way to help them get their head around the tricky concept.
- A great idea can be to connect your pregnancy now with your pregnancy journey with your firstborn. Show your toddler pictures of you when you were pregnant with them to help them understand a bit better the changes your body goes through. Showing them pictures of or telling them stories about them as a newborn will also help them to make the connection between pregnancy and birth and get them excited for the new arrival!
- It’s often nice and helpful to refer to the newborn baby as ‘our baby’ when talking about it with your toddler. This simple change acknowledges that this baby brings new changes to your toddler’s life as well as yours. It also encourages them to think of the baby as a new addition to the family that they will have their own special relationship with and adds to the excitement.
- The last step can also be linked to giving your toddler a sense of responsibility and maturity with the baby. Lots of kids respond well to the duty that comes with being the older sibling. Without putting too much pressure on them, let them know that they will have to be a good influence on the newborn and help out with taking care of them. Hype them up to get them excited about this new role.
- Another great tip is to involve your toddler in the preparation for the new baby. While you’ll likely take the lead on picking the newborn’s name, you could let your toddler pick out some baby clothes or toys. You could even allow them to pick out one of these things as a gift from them to the newborn. This will allow them to feel included in the process and also get them excited as the due date gets closer.
- Needless to say, once the new baby is born, your routine will change radically and your energy levels will drop significantly. It’s a great idea to make any changes you can predict before the baby is born, particularly any that will annoy your toddler. You’ll likely not feel up to carrying your toddler around as much and may need your partner to take over some bedtime stories or morning school runs. If you can gradually make these changes before your baby arrives, your toddler won’t associate these annoyances with the baby and these changes will be less of a sudden shock.
- With the due date around the corner and your toddler more used to the idea of the new baby coming, it’s essential to have a serious talk with them in terms of safety. Your toddler has all the best intentions in the world and may think they are helping by feeding the baby their own food or placing some toys in the crib. Explain to your toddlers that, although this baby is theirs too, there are certain tasks they need to leave to you. Emphasise how fragile the newborn will be and how important it is for them to protect them, as the older sibling.
- If, after all of these steps, your toddler is still having a hard time trying to wrap their head around the idea, there are many great books and movies you could watch with them. Stories depicting the excitement around the arrival of a newborn and emphasising the important role the older sibling plays will be great to help your baby associate what’s happening to them to one of their favourite books or movies.
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