As young children are beginning to develop a sense of autonomy, difficult behavior on their part becomes common. This includes crying, exhibiting signs of aggression, and throwing a tantrum when they don’t get their way. Since he or she has been the center of their parent’s world for so many years, these emotions can be heightened by the introduction of a new addition to the family dynamic. With patience and planning, parents can ensure that there will be more happy times than stressful times. Below are our child care professionals’ tips on how to prepare your toddler for a new baby.
How and When Should I Talk to My Child About the New Baby?
Easing the transition from being an only child to the oldest will require preparation and understanding. Parents should brace themselves for their child to exhibit a variety of emotions upon hearing the news. Reactions can range from confusion to excitement to anger, disinterest or even go back and forth with all of the above. Read on for our suggestions about when you should inform your child about the new baby.
When to Break the News and What to Say
A good time to tell your toddler about the impending arrival is at the second trimester mark. Most moms will have started to show by that point, which can make the news easier for the child to understand. However, if you are experiencing severe morning sickness or early pregnancy fatigue, you may want to consider telling your child sooner rather than later, or he or she will think something is wrong. Be reassuring and honest during the discussion, and make sure to keep your tone light and positive. Parents should avoid over-explaining and not offer more information than necessary, unless your child has specific questions. Caregivers should stress that the new sibling will require a significant amount of attention, but that won’t change how much the older child is loved.
You Were a Baby Once, too
During the conversation, it can be beneficial to have a photo album featuring pictures of yourself during your pregnancy so your toddler can see what you’ll look like as the pregnancy progresses. If you have ultrasound photos of his or her soon-to-be sibling, you should share those as well.
Books about Becoming a Big Brother/Big Sister
Help your child understand the concept of pregnancy by using age-appropriate picture books. These materials can help provide clarity for him or her.
How Can I Help My Child Understand What it Will be Like to Have a New Baby Around?
The arrival of a new baby is an adjustment period for even the most prepared of parents, and many of these changes can also be difficult for an older sibling to handle. To minimize tension later on, try to incorporate some of the following techniques into your schedule.
Where possible, parents should allow their toddler to accompany them to prenatal visits. Offer to let him or her hear the baby’s heartbeat, and observe the sonogram images. Demonstrate your baby’s growth by comparing it to common objects, like fruits and vegetables. At 15 weeks, the baby is as big as a navel orange, while at 19 weeks the baby is the size of a mango.
Sibling Birth Classes
Many hospitals provide orientations for soon-to-be brothers and sisters. These classes can offer introductions on how to hold a baby, explanations of how a baby is born, and the chance for children to share their feelings about having a new brother or sister.
Engage in Practice Runs
Using a doll or a stuffed animal as a stand-in for the new baby, ask your child to lend a hand with some newborn-related assignments. Explain that tasks such as rocking and feeding can only be completed by adults, but that he or she can still be helpful at other times. Responsibilities include having him or her fetch you a diaper or wipes at changing time, a towel at bath time, a pacifier when the “baby” is crying. As part of the practice run, demonstrate how your child can interact with the with his or her new sibling. Stress the importance of being gentle.
Introducing Your Toddler to the New Arrival
As your due date draws closer, make arrangements for older children for the time that you’ll be in the hospital. Make sure that your child is aware of these plans so that they are not caught off-guard.
When the time gets closer, have your toddler help you gather and pack the supplies for your hospital stay, and explain the significance behind them. Consider letting your child visit you in the hospital as soon as possible after the baby is born.
It’s natural for your child to exhibit feelings of jealousy when he or she sees family and friends showering the new baby with presents. To help ease these emotions, plan a gift that your child can give to the baby, such as a painting or a drawing to hang near the crib. Additionally, parents should make sure to have a “I’m a big sibling” present to give to their toddler when the baby is born.
Bringing the New Baby Home
In the days after your baby comes home, it’s important to adhere to a regular routine. Many children want to help take care of their new sibling, and though that might mean that tasks take longer, it allows the older child to engage with the baby. If your toddler acts disinterested in the newborn, don’t force the interaction. It can take time.
Family and Friends
If relatives or friends ask how they can be of assistance, suggest a fun excursion or something special that they can do for the older child. Parents should also remind them that the older child might want to talk about other things besides the baby.
Dealing with Feelings
Encourage your children to talk about their feelings about the new baby. It’s natural that he or she will have some negative feelings toward the baby, and might regress to yelling, “I want to be a baby, too!” If your child exhibits signs of being difficult, try to understand what feelings might be behind that behavior. It can indicate that he or she needs more one-on-one time with you. Stress the importance of their emotions, but that they must be conveyed in appropriate ways. Offer suggestions that will make him or her feeling better, such as setting aside some special time every day for just the two of you. Even ten minutes of your time can make all the difference to your first-born.
Contact the Nanny Authority for More Information Today
With a little assistance from parents and child care professionals, siblings can grow up to be close friends. Here at the Nanny Authority, our nannies are well-equipped to help children deal with emotional stress, such as the addition of a new family member. Contact a placement specialist for more information at 973-466-2669 or via e-mail today!