What emotions might your toddler be feeling?
The arrival of a new baby brother or sister can be a potentially tough time for your child. If your toddler was your first child he/she is used to being the centre of attention, and if not he/she is got used to being the baby of the family, but now things are changing. He’s been your baby her entire life and has never known anything else. The change for her when a new baby arrives won’t be that easy.
Every toddler’s reaction will be different and will depend on them as individuals as well as their age when the new baby comes along. So your toddler might feel some or all of the following when the new baby arrives:
Toddlers can’t express how they’re feeling in a subtle or sophisticated way – so they’ll act it out – maybe with disruptive or baby-like attention-seeking behaviours. With your help, these natural stages will pass, rather than become an ongoing problem.
What can I do to help prepare my toddler for the baby’s arrival?
- Tell him/her early on that he/she will have a new baby at some point.
- Try to prepare him/her for the disruption that comes with a new baby; they need feeding, they cry, they sleep in your room.
- Prepare him/her for the birth and late stages of pregnancy so he/she knows that, for example, granny will come and look after him/her when you go to the hospital but you will be back soon.
- Look for stories where big brothers and sisters are exciting role models for him/her to aspire to.
Practical things you can do before the arrival
- If you’re moving your toddler into a separate room so the baby can sleep in your room, do this well in advance so they’re used to it before the baby arrives. If you can afford to, change the bedding on the cot so your toddler won’t feel like all his/her old comfortable and familiar things are being given away to the baby.
- If they’re ready for potty training, aim to do it either well before or well after the birth- so you have enough time for them.
- If there’s any chance of introducing your toddler to another baby before the arrival of yours, it will help her get used to the idea of a baby and what they’re like. So, if you have friends/siblings with babies, let your toddler play with them once in a while.
- Any new routines or people that might be coming along with the baby for your toddler e.g a new babysitter to help you, should be introduced well in advance of the baby’s arrival, or you should wait for a few months afterwards.
- Get them involved – scans, choosing a name, decorating the nursery, choosing toys etc
Arriving home with your new baby
When you arrive home from the hospital, try to remember your toddler will be more excited about having you home than the baby. So try to come through the door with someone other than you carrying the baby. Then you can get down and open your arms and give them the big hug they’ve been missing while you’ve been away. Then you can introduce them to the baby.
When you’re showing them the new baby, tell them how their feet used to be little just like this – or how you counted their 10 fingers and you can do the same with baby together. Try to relate as much as you can to them.
Wait until the arrival home of the new baby to present them with something they’ve been waiting for a while – such as a set of Lego – something fun just for them.
If you and your new baby stay in hospital for more than a night or so because they are in special baby care you can help your toddler by making her visits to the hospital as much about her as possible (try to get your partner and other visitors to be with and cuddle your baby, so you can spend this precious visit with your toddler).
After the baby’s arrival
It can help to make sure friends and family don’t ignore your toddler in the clamour to see the new baby. Ask close friends and family to bring a little something for the toddler when they bring a present for the baby. If they forget, have a little stash on one side so you can give something to your toddler at the same time, so they won’t feel left out.
All of the above will hopefully help. But be prepared that you may be in for some tantrums, bad behaviour and a few new antics.
If you possibly can, get some family and friends prepared to step in and help. Either they can take your toddler out, or babysit them at home. Or they can babysit your baby and you can have some special time with your toddler.