Preparing your toddler for the addition of a new brother or sister can be difficult. Each child has their own personality and may react differently to the arrival of a new sibling.
Most families have a gap of 1½ to 2½ years between the first and second child, and unfortunately this timing can be challenging for self-centred toddlers. Bringing home a new addition to the family can make your toddler feel they now suddenly have to share your love and attention.
Ideas to help you plan to introduce the new family member smoothly:
- When your pregnancy is obvious, talk to your toddler about a baby joining the family. Let them feel your belly and tell them stories about when they were a baby
- Show them pictures of when they were a newborn
- Speak to your toddler about how families can have more than one child and perhaps talk about your own or your partner’s siblings as an example
- Let them help get the baby’s room ready
- Talk with your toddler about names for their brother or sister
- Read books together about babies
- Try to make any major changes, such as moving them from their cot into a big bed before their brother or sister arrives
- Join a playgroup so your toddler can learn to play and socialise with other children.
When the new addition arrives
After the birth of your new baby, your toddler may be accepting until they realise their sibling is here to stay. They may then begin to resent their younger sibling for taking up so much of your precious time and act out feelings of anger and confusion. Given the opportunity, some toddlers may become rough towards their younger sibling and they may also revert back to behaving like a baby themselves – asking for a bottle or dummy, wanting to be carried or wanting to sleep in their old cot.
Here are some strategies that may help your toddler to accept their new sibling during this period of adjustment:
- Let them hold the baby, but be sure to provide much needed supervision and reminders to be gentle
- Praise your toddler when they are gentle towards the baby
- Where possible, involve your toddler in caring for their brother or sister, they may be able to choose a toy for the bath or give them a little cuddle when they’re upset
- Keep your toddler’s routine the same as much as you can
- Show them there are some advantages to being the oldest by giving them a special reward, such as staying up 10 minutes later
- Try to set aside some regular time for you to spend alone with your toddler.
A new sibling will bring a huge change to your toddler’s life. It is key to show your love equally to each child. With time, your toddler will adjust and they’ll soon forget what it was like when they were the only one.