Adjusting to a new baby is probably the hardest thing your toddler will ever have to do. However, it is also the most enriching learning experience they could ever hope to have.
Some young children adjust effortlessly to a new sibling; others struggle. Sometimes they will be fine for a few months, and then start showing signs of displacement and distress later on. All children are different, and it is impossible to predict how they will react when baby #2 comes along. In this article, I am going to try to outline some of the reasons that children react negatively to a new sibling, and some ways in which you can help them adjust to the new little person in their lives.
See Things from their Point of View
There is no doubt that most parents #1 concern when expecting their second baby is how their toddlers will cope. Thankfully, most of the time the toddler will manage a lot better than we expect them to. However, some disruption is probably unavoidable. It’s important to remember that they are going through a very strange time in their lives, and that they are probably incapable of vocalising their fears, worries and feelings about their new baby brother or sister. Try your best to help them express themselves in whatever way they can. If the child is older, encourage them to share how they are feeling and never scold them for having negative feelings towards their sibling.
Try to Keep a Sense of Normality
Obviously, the first few weeks of a new baby’s life are complete chaos. Your older child will notice this too, and more sensitive children may be affected by the atmosphere in the home. Try to keep your older child’s routine as normal as possible; obviously some things are bound to change, and you shouldn’t try to do too much when you are adjusting to life with two children. But if you can continue to go to the weekly toddler group you always go to, and try to keep their daily routine as it used to be, they will find it easier to adjust. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t, though; having a new baby is a momentous and joyous time, and deviating from The Schedule isn’t going to hurt your older child.
Allow Your Toddler to Help
A great way to get them excited about their sibling is by getting them to help you with baby-related tasks. For example, you could ask them to fetch things for you when you change the baby. Most toddlers are really eager to help their mummies and daddies with simple, daily tasks and will relish the responsibility of helping to care for their new sibling. However, some of them will prefer not to get involved and if this is the case, you shouldn’t push them. Always give them the opportunity, but make it clear that if they don’t want to, they absolutely don’t have to.
Avoid Big Changes Around the Time That Baby Is Due
If you have any big changes to make in the toddlers’ life, such as the transition to a Big Kid Bed or starting nursery for the first time, it is best to avoid doing them too close to the baby’s birth. If possible, make any changes at least 3 months before your baby is due, sooner if you can. You don’t want them to have to adjust to too much at once.
Most parents feel a sense of guilt after the birth of their second baby; they feel like they have displaced the toddler, and that the toddler must feel like you love them a little less than before. It is tempting to let them get away with behaviour that you may not have done before. However, it is important to be consistent with them (within reason, of course). Having another baby is a momentous occasion and of course sometimes adjustments need to be made, and letting your little treasure steal an occasional biscuit from the jar whilst you are feeding the baby is not going to do them any harm in the long term. However, it is easy to slip into the habit of letting them get away with anything for the sake of an easy life; this will only make things harder in the long run. There will come a time (I promise) when you are adept at handling two kids, and the older one won’t be able to get away with the cheeky antics they previously have. This can be quite upsetting for them, as they don’t understand why your expectation of them has suddenly changed. If you can try to be consistent most of the time, it will make things easier for them in the future.
I would love to read your comments and suggestions on what you did to help smooth the transition to big brother/sisterhood for your little one! Please feel free to share them!