You may be ready for a second child, but preparing a toddler for a new baby is another story. Their world is about to be rocked!
Some toddlers won’t fully understand what’s happening. Some may be upset about the news and start acting out, while others may be as happy as you are. You won’t know your toddler’s reaction until the baby arrives. But there are some things you can do to prepare your first child for a new baby and get them excited about becoming a big brother or sister.
The best thing to do is talk to your toddler about the baby and how things will change. You also want to make sure you tell them how certain things, like your love for them, won’t change. Talk to your child in a way they will understand and get them excited for a little brother or sister.
Show your toddler pictures of when you were pregnant with them. This will help them see what’s going to happen over the next several months. Ask your child what differences they see from then and now. Then, pull out your child’s baby book. Show them their baby pictures and ask your toddler how they’ve changed from then to now, and then help them understand that they were a baby once and needed mom and dad to do everything for them just like the new baby will.
Not sure what to tell your toddler? Read them children’s books about having a new sibling. These books can help you more easily show and teach your toddler about babies, what their role as an older sibling will be, and different emotions they might feel. Reading to them can also help them learn new words and prompt good conversations about becoming a sibling.
Gentle and quiet aren’t in a toddler’s vocabulary. Show your child how to be gentle with a baby, and then let them practice on a doll or stuffed animal. Remind your toddler that babies are smaller and not as strong as they are. And while you can train your newborn to sleep through noise, that doesn’t mean you want your toddler pushing every button on their firetruck while your baby naps. Let your toddler know that they will have to be quiet while the baby sleeps, and then make a list of quiet-time activities the two of you can do together during baby’s naptime.
Take your toddler to some of your doctor’s appointments. Show them ultrasound photos. Let your toddler pick out something for the baby. Ask them to color a picture for the baby’s room. The more involved your toddler is, the more excited they (hopefully) will be.
Tell your toddler you need to change a diaper, and ask them to bring you a diaper and wipes. Get a doll and let your toddler practice holding a baby. If you know someone with a baby, have your toddler practice holding or helping you with that baby. Have your toddler practice waiting next to you while you put the car seat in the shopping cart. And if you haven’t already, get a shopping cart cover for your toddler. It can be one of the “big sibling gifts” you give them.
You’re only one person. You can’t physically meet the demands of a newborn and a toddler at the same time. And unfortunately for your toddler, a newborn’s needs tend to come first. You will still have time for your toddler — and make sure they know that — but you also need to let them know you will have to do a lot for the baby. So give as much attention to your toddler before the baby comes. Take them on special outings and do fun things at home that they may not be able to once the baby is born.