Written by: Dr. Tovah Klein
Welcoming a new baby to the family when you have a toddler is a joyous occasion that can be fraught with trepidation and worry.
However, fear not!
With these tried and true tips, the transition will be more manageable and you will better understand what your little, big sibling is feeling.
1. Don’t spill the beans too early
It is exciting to discover that you are expecting again and even more exciting to share the news. Great, share it. But not with your toddler. Their limited sense of time means that telling them of this exciting event months early creates worry and anxiety.
I suggest waiting as long as you can, and then give concrete details, “After spring comes and there are new flowers, then the baby will be here.” Waiting until the last month to tell them will keep the whole family happier.
2. You are my first baby forever
It may sound exciting to you that your toddler will be a big brother or sister, but your child has no idea what that means. Toddlers are just figuring out what being “me” is. And now a new role—big brother or sister.
Instead of focusing on that, remind your child that they will always be your baby, even with a new baby here. They can’t hear it enough! Also remind yourself just how little your older one is. Three-four-five-six. They are still new to life in many ways. And they need to know you will still be there for them, in all their baby needs.
3. Expect regression
Toddlers regress. This can be before the baby comes or after (or both!). It is their way of communicating that they are not sure of what is going on. More clinging, toileting setbacks, increased whining or tantrums and sleep disruptions are common.
Do your best to remember how little your older one is and avoid control battles as best you can. Instead, bring them closer—they need you more. Extra hugs, cuddles, “babying” them can go a long way in helping them move through this major change in your family.
4. Make it ALL about the older one
“Hey! Your baby was looking for you, wondering where you are.”
“Look, baby! Your sister is back, she came home from school.”
Presents delivered to the door? Let your bigger one open them and play with toys, read books or other goodies in the box. You’ll be grateful for friends who remember to send a big-sibling gift, too.
5. Jealousy is normal
We expand our families with the idea of having siblings who love each other and are friends for life. That will happen. Later. For now, having a new baby can bring out love in your toddler but also jealousy and a mix of feelings.
Try to recognize the anger and confusion your child is feeling, “It is so frustrating when mommy has to feed the baby again!”—it will help them handle those complex emotions. Recognize their need to be with you, “I will change baby’s diaper so fast so I can come back and read you a book.” It helps them feel understood.
6. Mommy’s sidekick
Young children like to help. Bring your toddler onto the “management” side with you by giving them simple tasks. Let them bring you a diaper for the baby, or hold the baby’s toy while you get the baby into the car seat. These empowering moments give your firstborn a way to be part of the action and “mama’s little helper.”
7. Grab even the smallest moments of alone time
It can be hard to manage two. Small pockets of time that are solely for you and the older one can go a long way. A few minutes reading a book can help your child feel connected to you. Label that time, “It is only mommy and (child’s name) reading now. No baby here.” Your child will know they have something special with you.
8. Ask for help from everyone who will give it
A second baby is an adjustment, a joy, and a big change. You may be someone who likes to do it all yourself, but now is not the time for that. Meals, free babysitting, someone to take your child to the park, groceries dropped off. Accept help. You can return the favor in the future.
9. Let go of perfection
Mamas can be hard on themselves. Now is not the time.
As you let go of perfection, you will relax more and find greater joy in being with your two bundles of joy. Dishes can remain dirty, bedtime may have to vary a bit. But at the end of the day, you are a mama of two and you are doing it!
Protip: The audiobook version of How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success by Dr. Tovah Klein is now available! Forward by Sarah Jessica Parker.
This article was originally published on Motherly and edited with permission from the author.
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