As any diva will tell you, being replaced by the understudy is a horrible experience. The prospect of a newer and younger star stealing the spotlight can be a devastating hit to the ego. Toddlers may feel similarly shaken when a new baby enters the home, taking away much of the attention that once was showered on them. Parents can help with their toddler’s transition by communicating well and including her in her new sibling’s arrival from the beginning.
1. Early Communication
Long -- but not too long -- before the big day, you should let your toddler in on the family news and answer any questions he has. The months will seem like a small eternity to your toddler, so you may want to wait to share the news until the second trimester. Since a toddler’s perception of time is short-range, explain the arrival date in terms he can understand like telling him his baby brother or sister should be here just before Halloween. While the whole family waits for the baby, listen to clues from your child as to what may be most concerning to him. As renowned pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton notes in a May 2013 "USA Today" article, you know your toddler best and are the real expert when it comes to introducing him to new events and people.
Include your toddler as often as you can in preparation for the baby's arrival. By asking for her “help” as you decorate a room or choose a stroller, you elevate your toddler's role as big sister. Use a life-size doll to demonstrate how to gently hold and care for a new baby. Watching her interact with the doll may give you an inkling as to how she’s processing the idea of her new sibling. Answer all the questions she has as simply and honestly as you can.
3. Be Consistent
Even though a new baby can bring a bit of turmoil to a household, it’s important that your toddler maintains some sort of routine. If he is in preschool, he needs to stay in preschool. If his bedroom is to be the baby's room, you need to move him out long before the baby arrives. Most importantly, be consistent with your demonstrations of love. Finding one-on-one time with your toddler makes it more likely he’ll believe that you really can love two children just as well as one.
4. Baby’s Arrival
As you celebrate the arrival of your new baby, be certain to include your toddler in on the party. You can have her pick out a gift to give her new brother or sister and the new baby can give one in return. As family and friends come to see the baby, make certain they don’t ignore your toddler in the process. Visitors often bring little gifts to a sibling, and this is a great idea. If your toddler equates the baby’s arrival with positive happenings for her, she’s more likely to see it as a good thing.
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