Many parents envision building a family where the children are not only siblings, but the best of friends. While the kids will likely grow to love each other dearly, there are bound to be some rocky moments along the way. One of the trickiest times can be when a new baby comes into the family.
Older siblings, especially toddlers, are apt to experience a wide range of emotions about the new addition, including a bit of jealousy. Don’t be surprised if your normally well behaved and cooperative Toddler Begins Misbehaving shortly after the birth of a younger sibling. It is very common to see disobedience and other attention getting behaviours in older siblings, especially for the first few months after the arrival of a new baby. Some toddlers who were completely Potty Trained even refuse to use the toilet and demand a nappy. Fortunately, things do get easier, especially when you actively take steps to assure the bigger sibling that they are as important to you as ever.
A short while before your baby is due, perhaps a month or so, begin preparing your toddler for the new arrival. Talk about the new baby and how excited you are to be having another child to love in your family. Be sure to relate stories of when your toddler was a baby and emphasise how proud you are of all that they have accomplished since they were new and helpless.
Be sure to prepare your toddler for the changes in your household, including any changes in sleeping arrangements. It can be very helpful to involve your toddler in some of the preparations, perhaps by letting them choose nursery decor and new baby clothes. Talk about your upcoming hospital stay, and assure your toddler that they will be able to visit you and the new baby shortly after the birth.
Toddlers are very concerned about consistency and routine, so do your very best to make any changes gradually, to allow for a comfortable transition. For example, if you plan to move your older child out of the cot and into a toddler bed, you should make that transition before bringing the new baby home. That way, the older child will not feel like they have been ‘moved out’ to accommodate their sibling.
One of the best ways to make your toddler feel connected to and involved with their new sibling is to let them help you care for the baby. You can give them small, manageable chores that help to make them feel valued and grown up. Toddlers are often delighted to help out and will happily help you to fold laundry, choose outfits for the baby, and help to feed and burp the baby.
It is important that you make every effort to include your toddler in the care of the new baby, but it is equally important that you set aside time to interact with your toddler, one on one. Until the new baby came into the family, your toddler likely got plenty of attention; it is important they don’t feel that they have been ‘replaced’.