We were barely into toddlerhood with our first child when we discovered we would be expecting our second child! Very excited, we began preparing for the arrival of our daughter’s younger sibling. Being an unseasoned mother, I couldn’t fathom not spending every waking second with my daughter, meeting her every need and making sure she wouldn’t feel abandoned if I gave attention to a baby. I wanted to make sure both of us were prepared ahead of time for the arrival and changes of a baby coming home to live with us. Here are a few ideas to help make a smooth transition.
1) Create a home-made book with pictures and a story that details the process of mommy growing a baby in her tummy, where mommy will go to have the baby, the plans of care for the “big sibling” during delivery, and what it might be like when baby comes home to live in our house, and how the sibling can help take care of baby.
For example, here is a snippet from “Lauren becomes a Big Sister” written and illustrated (with stick figures!) by “mom”. “When the baby is ready to be born mommy will go to the hospital and the dr’s and nurses will help mommy push the baby out.”… “While mommy and daddy are at the hospital, Lauren will spend lots of fun time with her Grandma and Grandpa” … “The baby will come home to live in our house with us and the baby will sleep in mom and dad’s room” …”The baby will cry, maybe a lot” …”Lauren can help mommy take care of the baby by bringing diapers, giving the baby a pacifier, etc” … “Our family will still do lots of fun things like (fill in the blank) but now baby will come with us too.”
All of our kids LOVED this book and chose to read it over and over before the expected baby was born.
2) When older sibling comes to meet the new baby for the first time, receive the older child with excitement and warmth, while the baby is down in the bassinet or being held by someone other than mommy. Remember, this is all completely unfamiliar for a toddler aged child and quite possibly the first time being away from mom over night or seeing mom in a hospital. The best thing is to be welcomed and showered with love by mom (as usual) before being introduced, in a neutral way, to the baby. We also gave little gifts or a book from the new baby to the older child(ren) to make them feel important.
3) When baby is at home, try to carve out some one-on-one time each day to spend with the older child. This should be uninterrupted if possible and focused on something the child wants to do. If another parent or helper is around to take care of baby’s needs, it may allow for a short outing or a fun project, or just some silly time doing whatever falls at the whims of your little one!
The transition from one to two may feel completely overwhelming for the entire family especially if there is a small age gap. It takes time and flexibility to figure out how to balance all of the needs and wants of each child as well as trying to maintain a home and relationship. The best thing I’ve learned over each transition is DO NOT COMPARE yourself to anyone else and how they seem to be handling life. You will always feel like you are falling short, when in fact, you are the best person for the job you are doing! Children grow and new stages are right around the corner. It might feel like survival for a while, but soon you will fall into a routine and realize you are capable of so much more than you ever thought!
Image used under Creative Commons License -Flickr user Abigail Batchelder 2/11/15.