Making the decision to add to your family can be so special! Whether you always saw yourself with more than one child, or you want to grow your family to give your first child a sibling, it's a pretty momentous decision. The second (or third or fourth) time around, you're probably feeling more sure of yourself and how to manage your pregnancy and a new baby. But you may be feeling a little unsure of how to handle introducing your toddler to their new brother or sister. Toddlers aren't exactly known for being easygoing, reasonable little people. And a new baby can really throw a wrench in their life! Here are some tips on preparing your toddler for a new baby, so that when they newest member of your family arrives, things go as smoothly as possible.
How children of different ages will react
How your children react to a new baby will depend a lot on how old your kids are when their new sibling arrives. Toddlers won't necessarily understand what it means when you talk about the new baby on the way; they will likely react to your own excitement, and get excited because you're excited! For preschool-aged kids, the transition can be a bit more difficult. Between the ages of 2-4, your child may not understand how to "share" you yet. This is also the stage where attachment to you is at its highest, so they could possibly feel threatened by a new baby joining the family. As kids get older, the transition gets easier! School-aged kids probably won't be as sensitive to a new baby as kids between the ages of 2-4, and can understand and process the changes you discuss with them. But keep in mind, they might not like the new baby getting all the attention.
How to prepare your toddler for a new baby
This is something you definitely want to prepare for - you don't want to just introduce your toddler to their new baby brother or sister without warning! It's a good idea to start preparing your toddler for the new baby early in your pregnancy (as early as you feel comfortable talking to them about it). You can use picture books that depict a new baby joining a family, or watch an episode of a show they're familiar with that deals with it, so they can begin to understand what's going to happen.
Involve your toddler in the baby prep as much as possible! Include them in decorating the baby's room and getting the baby's clothes together. Have them pick out a special stuffed animal or book to gift their new brother and sister. When you're putting the baby's things away, give your toddler a chance to play with them a bit before you decide on a place to put them together. This way, they feel like they're part of what's happening, rather than having this thing happen to them.
It's important to be as honest as possible with your child about what life with a baby entails. Make sure they know that the baby will love them and they'll love them baby, but that baby's are also a lot of work - they cry and require a lot of attention! Also, make sure your child understands that while they will one day be able to hold and play with their sibling, the baby will be too small and fragile to play with right away.
Try to time big changes to your child's routine so they don't happen near the baby's arrival. For example, if you're potty training or transitioning your kiddo to a big kid bed, start the process early in your pregnancy, so they're used to their new routine by the time the baby comes along. And make sure to spend as much one-on-one time with your child as possible; it's hard juggling a new baby with older kids, but you want to make sure your child knows it's temporary.
How to introduce your toddler to a new baby
When the baby is born, ask your partner or a family member or friend to bring your older child to the hospital for a quiet visit. Let your older child to hold the baby and get a good look at them, but also give your child plenty of cuddles and attention while someone else holds the baby. If your child picked out a new toy or book or item of clothing for their sibling, have them bring it to the hospital to give to their new sibling. Once the baby comes home, make some time to go on a one-on-one date with your older kiddo, so they get plenty of your undivided attention.