Growing your family – Preparing your toddler

Much can be said on the topic of growing your family and transitioning from being a family of three, to one of four. How well you lead your firstborn in preparing to be a big sister or brother will be a significant determining factor on how your household will cope as a whole.

Many say that the jump can be so drastic and life-changing that having a third baby a bit later will feel like a leisurely walk in the park! There is lots of excitement and fun to look forward to along the journey; but practically, there’s also a long list of things to consider as you move from being a family with one toddler, to a family with a toddler AND a newborn.

The list ranges from re-looking at the size of your home, your monthly budget, your motor vehicle and current traveling systems; to smaller details like stocking up on newborn nappies, dusting off your breast-pump and planning a whole new wardrobe. However, experts warn that parents shouldn’t get distracted by the practical impact a second child will make. Rather focus on the dramatic emotional impact a new baby will have on your eldest.

So instead of focusing on your second, the wisdom is that if you focus on your first, your second will be happier for it too! Here are a few tips to help you before and during this emotional transition:

Before the new baby arrives
1. Bring the new baby in to conversation with your child often

The more you talk about your new baby, the more your child will be used to the idea of having a new baby around. If you have a name picked out for the baby, call him or her by name so that your child can relate better and understand that there is a real person inside of you. Explain that one day soon the new baby in your belly is going to come out and be a part of your family. Give your child nothing but positive affirmations of their new baby sibling.
Reading books about children getting a new baby sibling can be a great tool to help your toddler become excited and give them a better understanding of what it would mean to have a new baby brother or sister.

2. Encourage independence.

Encourage and celebrate moments of independence before your newborn arrives. The more independently your firstborn can play, eat and sleep, the easier it will be to incorporate a new baby into your daily routine. By doing this BEFORE the new baby arrives, you minimise your toddler possibly feeling rejected and associating less involvement from you with the arrival of the new baby.

Your toddler’s age will influence to what degree they can be independent, so take your child’s lead and don’t force the issue – simply encourage it.

3. Increase your husband’s involvement

Statistics show that the need for the father’s involvement with the eldest child increases dramatically once baby number two arrives. The reality is that you will simply not be able to be as ‘hands-on’ with your firstborn, as before. Prevent this from possibly being a traumatic experience for your eldest by including your husband in activities that you are used to doing exclusively, such as feeding, bathing, and/ or putting him/ her in bed, before the new baby comes.

4. Expand your support system and child’s ‘circle of safety’

Be intentional about including grandparents, aunt and uncles and/ or close friends (especially if they have kids) in your child’s daily routine. Create space for them to bond and build trust relationships with these adults, so that they are comfortable enough to go to them on play dates or sleep-overs. This will not only give you a much-needed break once number two arrives, but is also important for your child’s social development.

The early days after baby is born
5. Avoid any other major changes
If possible, prevent big changes that could cause insecurity, like moving your toddler into a new room (possibly further away from yours), weaning them off their beloved dummy, potty training, or hiring a new nanny.

If there are changes you can’t prevent, make sure you implement them a few months before baby comes, so that your toddler doesn’t associate the change (and possible sense of loss and insecurity), with the arrival of the new baby. Keep routine and daily activities as unchanged as possible.

6. Bend the rules when it comes to screen time

You might not normally allow your child much screen time, however be okay with a little bit more TV or tablet time in the beginning. This will give you both the opportunity to stop and rest, while he/she is occupied.

7. Give a little extra attention to the older sibling

This can be hard to pull off! But if you have a plan, it can be done and goes a long way in confirming in their minds that you are still their mommy and will continue to love them as before.

Do some research and preparation before the baby comes, so that you have whatever you might need for the project or activity ready at home. Websites like Pinterest can be great places to get ideas.

8. Include your toddler in ‘caring’ for the new baby

If your eldest is interested, give them little ‘tasks’ to do like fetching a nappy or putting a blanket on the new baby. This will do a lot for their confidence as the bigger brother or sister, as well as make them feel included in this new adventure you are on. Make sure you always praise and affirm them for their help.

In summary, the phrase ‘Happy mommy, happy baby’ still rings true. Be sure to look after yourself and accept all the help and support offered to you running up to, and in the first few weeks, of your new-born’s life. Regularly make time for yourself to be alone; not forgetting the importance of time to connect with your spouse/partner. If you are feeling loved and supported, it will be that much easier loving and caring for your children in this transitional time.

*Thanks to the Petit Love team for sharing this post

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