Until now, your toddler has enjoyed being the center of your attention. As far as your toddler’s life experience goes, you are there to meet every single need whenever it arises. However, with a new baby, this worldview is about to change. Your toddler may have to wait for what he wants because you’re tending the needs of your newborn. This can be a hard transition; here are four great ideas to help smooth this transition for your toddler.
Read Targeted Books
Toddlers love books, and many great stories address this issue for young children. Before the baby arrives and even when the new baby is home, read a variety of these books to help your toddler understand what’s happening. Before buying any of these titles, consider visiting your local library to see if there are any copies available for checkout.
Arrange Learning Play Dates
If you have any friends in this situation, consider scheduling a few play dates so your toddler can see another toddler interacting with her new sibling. By their nature, toddlers are very curious, and allowing them the opportunity to see a baby, hear a baby, and observe other interactions, may help them adjust to their new sibling when the time comes. If the opportunity arises at the play date, narrate important behaviors. For example, say “Liam has to wait for his mommy to finish feeding the baby before she can give him a drink,” “See, Liam is being gentle with his baby sister,” or “Since the baby is sleeping, we need to play quietly.” The more exposure to these types of situations your toddler can have, the more comfortable he will be when it’s his turn.
Set Aside Mommy and Me Time
It’s inevitable that your toddler will begin to realize that he is no longer the focus of your attention.
He may have to wait for a snack while you change his brother or sister’s diaper, or he may not be able to play with a favorite, noisy toy because his sibling is napping. To help your little one cope with this new reality, set aside time to spend time together, just the two of you. This action can return some normalcy to your toddler’s life as she begins to adapt to the new family structure. Consider hiring a mother’s helper for two hours each week so you can take your toddler to the playground, library, or other favorite place. Don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends to find trusted sitters for your new baby. If your toddler feels as though life hasn’t changed too much, then she is likely to welcome the baby more readily into the family.
Organize a Gift Exchange
Everyone likes getting gifts! Consider taking your toddler to the store to pick out a new gift for the baby. Speaking in positive tones and phrases can help your little one to become excited at the arrival of a new brother and sister; going shopping communicates a happy event. Letting her pick out a toy from the baby section empowers her to welcome their new baby brother or sister. When her sibling arrives home, create a big deal of a gift exchange, and give your toddler a gift from the new baby, something she would love. Complete the gift exchange with cupcakes or other special tradition to commemorate the event. A gift exchange will help to communicate that a new sibling’s arrival is a celebration, a positive event for the entire family.
Helping your toddler to adjust to a new brother or sister can be a difficult task; expect some bumps along the road. It’s important to start early, and give your toddler enough time to begin to process this major change in his life. It’s also important to validate all of your toddler’s feelings, even the negative ones; acknowledging feelings of jealousy or resentment lets your toddler know that you’re listening to how he is feeling. Recognizing these feelings can help your toddler to move past them and become an awesome big brother or big sister.
Kathryn is a baby-wearing, cloth diapering, DIY mom to her quickly growing and pretty cute toddler. When she isn't researching and writing about natural approaches to pregnancy and parenting, she's acting out her favorite children's books or singing off-key made-up songs.