Preparing Your Toddler For The Baby!
Congratulations! You’ve just received wonderful news that you’re going to be parents…again! Having a new baby is an exciting and wonderful time, how can you prepare your toddler to share this amazing event?
First, you have to start way before baby is born. Try to avoid having your toddler feel that any significant changes in her routine are because of the baby. Gently and slowly easing into your new expected routine should avoid association.
Providing time is important for your toddler, your baby and yourselves!
- Enroll your toddler in a preschool or playgroup. At least for the first few months,it will be difficult handling having two children at the same time. Having your toddler join a preschool allows you some free time during the day to focus on your baby’s needs. Make time for this before the baby is born since it’s going to take your toddler some time (maybe a couple of months) to feel secure in his daycare and spend the whole day there.
- Babysitter for your toddler or baby. Try to see if family members or friends are willing to baby sit either child so you can get to spend some one on one time with the other. Maybe grandparents can take your baby for the morning while you attend your toddler’s baby gym class. It might be a good idea to find out who is willing to help so you can have realistic expectations.
- Time as a couple. Dealing with two children (or more) can be overwhelming at times. Days can go by without you, as a couple, spending quality time together. Try to arrange with family members or friends if they are willing to care for one (or both) of your children while you go for a movie, dinner or just sit at home for a couple of hours.
- Time as a family. Just because you’re having a new baby doesn’t mean you have to give individual attention to each child alone. You can expect to have family outings as well. Go to child friendly places like the park, zoo, playgroup (some of them have activities for parents and children together), your local bookstore may have children’s activities like story time on the weekends.
Try to give your toddler realistic expectations about life with a baby. Answer questions truthfully as much as possible and expose your toddler to real life situations that can help him or her become familiar with the idea of becoming a brother or sister.
- Meet other babies. Visit friends or family members who have a baby. With experience, your toddler will start understanding what a baby is, how she’s different from him and slowly what to expect.
- Meet other older siblings. Point out other toddlers you may know who have a baby sibling.
- Read. Read books about having a baby brother or sister. This can give your toddler an idea about what to expect.
- Avoid false promises. Don’t tell your toddler that the baby will be his friend as soon as she’s born. Is the baby going to play ball or hide and seek with him? No. At least for the first few months your toddler will learn that baby plays in a different way. You can prepare your toddler that baby likes to play with a rattle, sing songs, sleep and will cry when upset.
- Answer questions. Your child will have many questions about the baby. Where is she from? I once heard a 3-year-old ask if his mommy had swallowed him before she got pregnant 🙂 What will she be like? Try to be as honest as you can without going into too much detail that is beyond your toddler’s comprehension.
Preparing & Involving your Toddler
You may need to change things in your routine before your baby arrives or move your toddler to a new room. How do you prepare and involve your toddler in all these pre-baby changes?
- Give a time line. When you first tell your toddler about the baby give him an understandable time line. For example, say baby will arrive in the summer, after Christmas, after your birthday..etc
- Don’t ask if he wanted a baby brother or sister. Your toddler can easily just say “No thank you!” when in reality this situation has no choice.
- Use Technology. If possible show your toddler a picture of the baby’s ultrasound. 3D ultrasounds show a very realistic image!
- Moving your toddler to a new room. Try to do this well in advance so that it’s not associated with the baby’s arrival. Have your toddler gradually move into his new room or bed without putting emphasis that this change is due to the baby.
- Preparing baby’s new room. Involve your toddler in the room’s decoration by choosing wallpaper and items for baby’s space as well as his own. Your toddler can also make things for the baby that can hang in her room like paintings, pictures, collages..etc.
- Avoid. Try to avoid making everything revolve around the baby, give your toddler equal attention before the baby arrives as well. Also try to avoid introducing materialistic concepts like pointing out that you are also buying toys for your toddler. Instead maybe your toddler can give some of his baby toys to the baby. Ideas like baby arriving with a gift may create ideas of materialism . In reality, you should encourage a sibling relationship and bond based on love and sharing. Pointing out that baby is smiling or trying to “talk” with your toddler may be a more bonding experience.
Jailan Heidar is an Egyptian parent educator currently living in The Netherlands. She has a MSc. in Child and Family Studies from Leiden University. She specializes in providing parenting support to parents of children from 0-5 years through her website EarlyYearsParenting.