It can be very difficult for a toddler or preschooler to deal with the arrival of a new sibling. What we interpret as jealousy is sometimes fear of the unknown, anxiety by a disruption in schedule and family structure, and a whole lot of mixed emotions (excitement and territorialism) that turns his wee head into a spin. Here’s how to help him.
Show him his baby photos
Telling stories of his own birth (and the crazy months that followed) helps him imagine what lies ahead. Though you can get ‘new baby’ books for toddlers, try making your own—together. Just make copies of him: bundled up at the hospital, drinking milk, sleeping in your arms, playing with a rattle, sitting in the stroller.
Glue a scrapbook or baby mini album, and let him decorate with stickers. When the baby arrives, he can add pictures of his new sibling doing exactly the same thing.
Give him a time line
Don’t break the news too early; Wait until you show, and then peg your due date to something he can grasp (‘after Christmas’ or ‘when you start school.’). About a month before the Big Day, hang a calendar. He can cross off days. To build anticipation (or break boredom) randomly pick a few days from each week and promise a small activity. For example: ‘Help mommy buy baby clothes’ or ‘listen to the baby’s heartbeat (doctor’s appointment).’
Prepare a big brother/sister bag
You have your hospital bag packed—well, he needs one tool! Fill it with coloring books, a disposable camera (he can help take pictures!), cell phone cards so he can call relatives about the big news, and candy or junk food he can eat during hospital visits.
Helping with the transition
When the baby arrives, you can help him adjust through the turbulent first week.
Tell visitors/relatives to greet your older child first. Give your toddler the job of reminding guests to wash their hands before touching the baby. (He can do this without sounding rude). Buy a small cake to celebrate his ‘birthday’ as a big brother or sister.