Family Life


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Prepare Your Reigning Toddler for Baby Number Two

Prepare your reigning toddler for baby number two

Imagine your spouse coming home one day and announcing he or she has taken another mate and you’re expected to share everything and even welcome him or her into the house. That’s how authors Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, in their book Siblings Without Rivalry, liken the experience of a toddler learning that a new baby will soon be joining the home.
Sara Dimerman agrees. A child and family therapist in Thornhill, Ont., and author of Character is the Key, Dimerman says the analogy brings home the point that a new baby can turn a toddler’s world upside down. She offers these dos and don’ts to parents of toddlers who are expecting, or awaiting an adoption.

DO INVOLVE YOUR TODDLER. Once you’ve told everyone about the pregnancy (and don’t expect a toddler to keep a secret), the journey begins with touching the tummy and hearing the heartbeat. A three-year-old may even be able to come to an ultrasound appointment. If spoken about early enough, the child gradually eases into accepting this change as his or her mommy’s tummy grows. If your toddler hasn’t been around many babies, now is a good time to change that.

DON’T MAKE A ‘BIG’ DEAL. Becoming a big sister or brother may seem like one of the main selling features to a toddler, but avoid dwelling on the ‘big’ label. Be careful not to put too much responsibility for being a positive role model on a two- or three-year-old. There’s not much of an age difference and really, they’re not that big.

DO ACKNOWLEDGE FEELINGS of jealousy and resentment in your toddler, either during the pregnancy or after the baby is born. It is totally normal for children to feel dethroned. Reassure and support them and acknowledge their feelings and they will fade over time. If you just ignore the jealousy and resentment, it can become worse.

DON’T TAKE YOUR TODDLER SHOPPING FOR BABY CLOTHES AND FURNITURE. It may spark jealousy. And it’s probably not that much fun.

DON’T TAKE BABY TOYS AWAY TOO SOON. Even though your toddler may have physically outgrown those toys, he or she may not be emotionally ready to part with them. Ask your toddler to consider ‘loaning’ some to the baby and tell him or her the baby will return the toys later.

DON’T OVERCOMPENSATE with gifts or special treatment just because you can’t pay your second child as much attention as you used to. If others want to buy a gift for the older sibling, they can, but ask them to keep it small. You can also include your toddler by letting him or her unwrap the gifts for the baby.

DON’T MOVE TODDLERS OUT OF THEIR CRIB UNLESS THEY’RE READY FOR IT. It may be worth borrowing a second crib or scraping pennies together to buy a new one. But if they are ready, congratulate them for moving into a bed and make it an exciting transfer, well before the baby arrives. If you’re handing down the crib, spring for a new set of baby sheets and tuck your toddler’s away as a keepsake.

DO READ BOOKS with your toddler on the subject. Check out: The New Baby, by Mercer Mayer; Waiting for Baby, and My New Baby, both by Annie Kubler; and Brand-New Baby Blues, by Kathi Appelt.

DO BE PATIENT as your toddler adjusts to the new baby. Behaviour changes and regression are normal and your toddler will naturally evolve over a few months to accept the change.

Published March 2010

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