Helping your toddler adjust to a new sibling
Sibling relationships are one of the longest lasting relationships we will experience in our lives and can be intense, emotional and tinged with rivalry competition, loyalty, love and affection – what a mixing pot.
When a new brother or sister arrives, the obvious change for your child is that the family dynamic which placed him or her at the centre of your world will alter.
Many young children won’t realise the new baby is a permanent fixture and will probably wonder when they're ‘going back to the shop’.
With a toddler, you may notice he is deliberately acting up or being clingy as he realises your affection is not just directed at him.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as some children take to a new sibling straight away and become mummy’s little helper, fetching nappies and muslins for the baby.
With some toddlers, the new arrival will pass them by and they will hardly notice it, as they will be more interested in the new world they are beginning to explore.
The key to encouraging good relationships between children in the future is to keep older children involved in the new baby’s arrival (but do remember that, even with the best intentions, you can end up with siblings who dislike each other).
Top tips for helping your child cope with a new sibling:
- When you have a couple of months to go and your bump is starting to really show, sit your child down and explain that a new brother or sister is coming to live with you. There is no point in telling him when you are three months pregnant because he will have little concept of what ‘in six months’ means. Tell him he can teach the baby where the swings are in the park and where he keeps all his books and toys. Explain that the new baby is in your tummy somersaulting around.
- Take your child on a shopping trip to buy a little present for the new baby. Let him choose a little something so he can feel excited too.
- Let him help decorate the nursery, pick colours and organise your house for the new arrival.
- When you have a short list of possible names for your new baby, run them past your older child (resist giving him free rein to choose a name or he will be peeved when the new baby isn't called Spiderman).
- Try to spend lots of time with your child before the new arrival comes. Explain to him that you might have to spend a bit of time looking after the new baby because she will be so small, but you still love him and if he wants you, you will be there.
- Have some little day trip ideas that someone he loves will be able to take your child on when the baby arrives, giving you some space and giving your toddler some one-on-one time, for example: ‘When the new baby arrives, Daddy is going to take you swimming."
- Ask close relatives and friends to bring a little something for your toddler too when they visit, so he doesn’t feel left out.
- When the new baby arrives, introduce her as his new little sister or brother and tell him he has to help mummy with the new baby. Make sure you never leave him unsupervised with the new baby as he might interpret ‘helping mummy out’ as trying to give the new baby a bath etc. It’s best you are around to make sure he is being gentle.
- As tired as you will be, try to make sure just the two of you spend some time together while the new baby is with daddy or grandma at home. That way he knows he can still have special moments with mummy.