Helping Prepare Your Toddler For A Baby On The Way
How to Prepare Your Toddler for a Baby on the Way
This was a biggie for me. I was so worried that my 2-year-old wasn’t going to adjust well, be happy, love his baby brother and I wanted to do everything I could to prepare him for the ‘big day’. Since starting The Parent Collective, I realize that there are lots of ways to help your toddler along – helping them to understand the concept and get excited about being a big brother or sister, and recognizing that they have an important role to play.
1. For starters you’ll need to introduce the concept of having a sibling.
Talk about it: Talk about your growing belly and the baby. Get them involved in the conversation by asking them questions about the baby. Have them ask you any questions they have.
- News of the pregnancy usually raises the question “where do babies come from?”. Remember to keep your explanation age appropriate. There are excellent books, which can help you explain for every age.
- Run through a variety of scenarios for how the family will manage the baby’s arrival so that it won’t be a source of anxiety for your toddler. Discuss what happens when mommy goes to the hospital to have the baby and how that will impact your toddler. Prior to your due date, it is important that you explain to your child who will be with him while you are in the hospital. Planning ahead for your hospital stay is very important. Decide who will be with your child, who will bring him to visit Mommy and baby at the hospital. The child must be prepared in advance and be confident he will have a person to rely on. Approaching the situation through the eyes of a toddler will go a long way to easing their concerns in advance. You might say “Mommy might go to the hospital in the middle of the night – but that’s ok. When you go to school that day you can tell all of your friends that you will have a new baby brother or sister soon.”
2. Once they understand what’s happening, you can begin to help build some excitement!
- Give them their own baby: If a child does not already have one, get them their own baby. You can practice taking care of the baby with your child. The child may even use this baby when their new sibling comes home. When you change the baby, they can change their “baby”.
- Look at their baby pictures & videos: show your child a picture of them as a baby. Tell them stories about them when they are little and how happy you were to have them.
- Read lots of books: books are a great way to help a child anticipate the arrival of a new baby and what they can expect.
- Hype it up/make it positive: talk about how they are going to have a new baby to love and how they are going to be the best big sister or brother. Make them feel special. Talk with them about how they are going to be able to teach their sibling so much and ask what they are most eager to teach them.
- Get others involved in the older child’s care: Your older child will need to rely on others as there are times when mom has to be with the new baby. Start this before the baby arrives to ease this change and transition.
- Hold off on any big changes or transitions: if possible, try to not make big changes right before the baby is expected (i.e. potty training, moving to a big bed). If there is a change that needs to be made such as a bedroom change or a change in childcare/daycare try to do this 2-3 months prior so there is not all this change coming at the same time as a baby.
3. And finally, get them involved in welcoming their baby brother or sister.
Working on a project together to make something special as a welcome gift is a great way to engage your toddler and get them excited to meet the baby. Below are some easy to execute ideas which will make your toddler feel special and like an important part of welcoming their new sibling.
- The Big Sibling Book is a great way for the older sibling to help track baby’s development and feel involved.
- Create a ‘how-to’ book where your older child teaches their baby brother/sister how to do their favorite activity. Write your child’s how-to text on each page and print photographs of your child engaged in that step. Then they can make a drawing of their favorite thing and when the baby arrives, they can ‘teach’ them, by reading their story. This will give them a sense of pride and show them ways in which is can be fun to be the older sibling.
- Have your older sibling create or help create your baby announcement. The front of the announcement can be the baby’s photo and the back can be an artistic creation of their making.
- You can even have your toddler decorate wrapping paper by decorating with paint, markers, stickers, and a selection of decorations (make sure baby wipes are on hand!)
Hopefully these strategies will help your family prepare for life with a new baby where everyone (and by everyone, I mean your first baby) feels secure and excited about the next chapter! Good luck!
Jessica is the Founder of The Parent Collective (TPC), which offers a new approach to prenatal classes which helps couples establish friendships among couples who live local to one another and are due at the same time all while skipping the judgments and agendas of other classes. Inspired by the NCT of the UK, TPC is an alternative to other childbirth education classes which lend themselves to a more intensive, one-and-done model and we hope that couples taking a TPC series will cultivate a social network through weekly participation, forge a robust prenatal/parental support system and of course, gather playmates for the little ones on the way. Classes are currently running in Fairfield County CT, Manhattan, Westchester, and Long Island NY and New Jersey. To learn more visit: www.theparentcollective.com