How to Prepare Your Toddler for a New Sibling
As a parent, growing your family can be a wonderfully exciting time – but for a toddler who is used to having you to themselves, there’s a chance they might not be quite so enthusiastic. Toddlers aren’t exactly known for their love of sharing – soon they’re going to have to share you, which will be a big change for them!
Although a transition for all of you, there are a few ways that can ease your little one gently into the idea of becoming a sibling for the first time.
HOW TO TELL YOUR TODDLER ABOUT YOUR PREGNANCY
Once you start announcing the exciting news to your family and friends, it’s time to tell your toddler. If you put it off, there’s a chance they’ll end up hearing it from someone else, and it will definitely confuse them if their uncle asks them if they’re excited for their new sibling!
Try telling them in a way that it’s easy for them to grasp, such as “you’re going to have a brother or sister to play with”. Your little one may not understand, or they might not immediately warm to the idea, so just give them some time to get their head around it – and be sure to remind them of just how much you love them.
Show them their old baby pictures
One way to help demystify your pregnancy is to get out pictures and videos of when you were pregnant with them and of them as a baby. It’ll help your toddler realise that they used to be totally dependent on you just like the new baby will be, but it won’t last forever. Get them to compare how they used to look then to how they look now – look how much they’ve grown! Seeing more about their early days will help them get a sense for what will happen in the coming months.
Get them involved in your pregnancy
You may not want to go as far as asking your little one to pick the baby’s name (although who knows, they might have some great ideas!) but you can ask them to help pick out bedding, toys and baby clothes to make them feel involved.
If possible, bring your toddler along to a few of your scans so they can see the baby for themselves, and encourage them to put their hands on your bump so they can feel their little sibling moving. You may find that your curious toddler will have a lot of questions about your pregnancy, so answer them as honestly as possible – but maybe just stay vague if they ask any medical questions about childbirth!
Teach them how to be patient
Your little one has had you to themselves their whole life, so they’re used to having your undivided attention. It can come as a bit of a shock when they suddenly have a sibling who is also vying for your time, so whilst you’re pregnant, try gradually making your toddler wait a little longer when they ask you to do something. We’re not suggesting long periods of time, but if they learn that every now and then they might have to wait a couple of minutes for you to fetch them a drink, it can make them feel less like it’s ‘the baby’s fault’ when you can’t immediately respond to their demands.
Keep everything as normal as possible
Pregnancy will bring big changes for both of you and it’s great to be well-prepared, but try to keep things as normal as possible. Whether it’s attending playgroups or dance lessons, or even just playing with them as you usually would, keep your routine consistent for your toddler. Get in some one-to-one quality time while you can.
INTRODUCING A NEW SIBLING TO YOUR TODDLER
Your toddler may take to being a big sibling like a duck to water, but when the moment finally arrives for your two precious little ones to meet, try not to be disheartened if your eldest doesn’t give your baby the warmest reception.
From your toddler’s perspective, babies are pretty underwhelming – they can’t talk, they can’t play yet and they’ll be taking up a lot of your time! A touch of the green-eyed monster is also normal. To help make it easier, you could try:
- Getting your toddler a gift ‘from’ your new baby, and vice versa, to make them feel more included.
- Encouraging your toddler to help out with the baby, such as helping with changing nappies.
- Letting them express how they feel to you. Just because right now they’re wondering if you can drive the baby back to the hospital, doesn’t mean they’ll feel that way forever – it’ll just take them a little time to adjust.
- Giving them lots of praise when they perform big sibling duties and are gentle with your baby, to give your toddler some positive reinforcement.
- Spending some one-on-one quality time together without your baby there.
- Reminding them that just because your family has grown, doesn’t mean they are loved any less.
It can take a little time for your toddler to come to terms with the idea of not being an only child any more, but before you know it they’ll be inseparable.
For more helpful parenting tips and advice, take a look at our Everyday Advice page.
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