Toddlers have a hard time dealing with abrupt change, even if it’s something as mundane as a new kind of food. No wonder a new baby in the family can turn their world upside down! ‘Sometimes, what we interpret as sibling jealousy is really just being overwhelmed. Mommy and daddy are behaving differently, routines have changed, and there’s a complete stranger too,’ explains experts. That’s why it’s important to prepare your toddler for a new baby even during your pregnancy. Here are some tips.
When to break the news
Wait until you start to show before telling your child about the pregnancy. Keep the explanation simple: ‘We are having another baby. My tummy will grow until he or she is ready to come out. Then you will be an older brother (or sister).’ Give facts only if she asks, like ‘How did the baby get there?’ You don’t have to get into a big talk about sex. Just say, ‘The baby is in the womb, and she will come out of the vagina…,’ etc. There are some story books that help explain this to toddlers.
Names are everything
Instead of saying, ‘the new baby’ call it ‘your baby brother or sister’ instead of ‘mommy and daddy’s new baby.’ This is quite empowering because it helps him feel involved and important. You can also ask his help in picking a name or nickname for his sibling.
Roleplay being a big brother or sister
Help give him an idea of what to expect Like, get him a baby bottle to feed to his stuffed animal. If you have a friend or relative with a baby, visit him and observe what babies are like.
Show his baby pictures
Show your child he was once a newborn, too. Explain that like him, the baby will do little more than eat, sleep, and cry, and that it will take time before they can play together. You can even put together a new album or scrapbook, with pictures of her as an infant, ending with her as a big sibling.
Have your child choose a new toy for the baby. Once in the hospital, give her her own surprise gift like a ‘Big Sister’ shirt or a framed photo of your family before the new baby’s birth.
Get daddy involved
Before birth, schedule bonding time between your child and her dad. You will be preoccupied with the baby, so she should be given time now to get comfortable with other caregivers. Relinquish parenting duties such as bathing her and putting her to bed to someone else. (Read more on how dads can help during pregnancy.)
Stick to routines
Maintain your child’s routine when the baby comes home. Plan months in advance if your child needs to transition into a bigger bed or a new room. It will be too much for a young person to handle once the baby comes.
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