Taking your newborn home is a little different the second time around. The welcoming of a new baby brings about your toddler’s transition from being an only child to a sibling. While this an exciting time for your family, it can also be a tricky path for your tot to navigate. Preparing your toddler for this special event can help make the transition a little easier for both of you.
1. Prepare your toddler early on during your pregnancy
A conversation with your little one is the best way to begin preparing them for the arrival of a new family member. In age-appropriate language, discuss what’s happening, find out their thoughts and answer any questions they may have to help them feel reassured. Keep in mind that your child is likely too young to understand the situation fully, so try not to overwhelm them with information – keep it slow and simple for now. Involving them in building the nursery and buying baby essentials will help them get used to the idea and feel better prepared for the event.
2. Plan the first hospital meeting
Your toddler might feel a little unsettled when you leave for the hospital, so it’s important to prepare them regularly for the possibility and leave them in the care of someone close and familiar. When arranging the first visit, keep in mind that hospitals may seem scary and unfamiliar to your child, so keep visits short and flexible. Your toddler’s caregiver may also want to organise a special outing for after their stay, as having somewhere fun to go can make it easier to leave.
Try to have your hands free when your child arrives so you can focus on greeting them properly without distraction. Once you’ve reunited, bring the baby into the picture while keeping the attention on your older child. Invite them to gently stroke the baby’s legs, feet and hands. Be conscious of how you communicate your excitement; referring to your newborn as “your little brother” or “little sister” instead of “the baby” can help your child see them less as a threat and more as a part of the family.
3. Maintain your toddler’s routine and activities
Parenting becomes a whole new game when there’s two to take care of. While it may seem like a juggling act at first, it’s important to keep up with your toddler’s routines and activities as best you can. For instance, while you feed and bathe your newborn, your partner may take the lead in reading bedtime stories and going to playgroup. The first few weeks will be challenging to organise but sticking to established routines will help to reassure your toddler during the transition.
4. Expect & prepare for some jealousy
It’s entirely natural for your child to feel a little jealous of all the attention your newborn is receiving, especially if they’ve grown used to being your primary focus. If the green-eyed monster rears its head, acknowledge your child’s feelings and reassure them that, while it’s not okay to suggest your sibling sleep outside with the dog, it’s natural to feel mad, sad or say things you don’t mean. Try to spend regular one-on-one time together to reassure them of your special bond. Whether your newborn is napping, or you enlist help from a loved one, a little bit of undivided attention can go a long way.
5. Foster connection, but don’t force it
While they may not take an instant liking, children are often fascinated by babies. Encourage your child to interact with your newborn; whether this be singing softly or gently stroking the baby’s skin. Toddlers can be quite energetic and heavy-handed at times, so you may need to remind your child to be gentle. Explaining why their little sister or brother needs extra attention or support, and referring to their own habits when they were this age, can help them understand more about what’s going on.
Most importantly, don’t force their relationship. Your toddler may need a little time to adjust; it’s natural for their confusion to manifest itself in their behaviour or sleep patterns, but they will eventually work through the transition period and adapt to the changes. If the connection isn’t there instantly, give it time and keep encouraging your kids to be close. Like all good things, sibling love takes time.