If your family is growing, you’re probably wondering how your family dynamic will change with the addition of a little one. As a mother, you already have a pretty good idea of what to expect . . . but your toddler or older child may not. Depending on their age, your older child will have a different comprehension of what it means to welcome a new baby into the family. While each family is different, we have some tips for how to help your toddler bond with your new baby.
1. Talk about the baby. Your toddler probably understands more than you would believe. By talking about the baby during your pregnancy, your toddler can become accustomed to the idea of having a younger sibling. Talk about things that will change with your new arrival and what you’ll do with the baby.
2. Plan big changes. If your toddler is young enough that she’s still in diapers or in the crib, make the transition to potty training or a toddler bed ASAP. You want to give her at least 2-3 full months to adjust to one change before introducing another one—like a new baby. If you can’t do that, try postponing one of those transitions until well after the baby arrives, otherwise all of your hard work may be for naught if she reverts back.
3. Maintain your routine. With a new baby, it can be easy for any semblance of a routine to be lost. You and your partner will have to be a team and take turns with morning and evening routines to help your little one feel as “normal” as possible. Doing things like you usually would as much as possible will help your toddler with adjusting to the baby.
4. Give some wiggle room. Surprise your toddler with an extra special treat that she might not otherwise get—like a yummy treat, a new toy or doing something else they wouldn’t usually get to have or do. A little bit of rule breaking is OK, especially if it helps your toddler feel like she is still special to you and definitely not being replaced!
5. Plan one-on-one time. Remember, your toddler is used to having your undivided attention most of the time. With a new baby, that time will dramatically be reduced. Make a conscious effort to spend daily alone time with your toddler. Whether it’s during naptime or dropping baby off at a grandparent’s house for an hour, it will mean a lot to your toddler to have you to herself.
6. Let her help. Don’t push her if she doesn’t want to do something, but allowing your toddler to help can make her feel important. Children love to feel like they are contributing and making a difference, even if it’s tiny. Ask for her help and give her small tasks to do. Then praise her frequently so she recognizes that good behaviors get “rewarded” by you. This will also help to cut down on acting out and other negative behavior.
By acknowledging that your new baby is a huge adjustment for your toddler, too, you can take the steps to make the transition easier on the whole family.