Preparing your child for the arrival of their new sibling
Finding out that you will have another bundle of joy joining the family in nine months can be an exciting time for the whole family, but it can also be a confusing, scary, and overwhelming time for our little ones. But, it doesn't have to be; children need enough time to process the news and understand what it means. Fortunately, you will have around seven months to prepare your toddler for this beautiful new experience.
We would like to share some top tips to support you through this part of the journey. Incorporate these as part of your routine; remember, small children need lots of repetition to begin to make links and understand new concepts. This will help you make it a special time for all of you.
Talk to your child
The best time to begin talking to your little one about the new addition to the family is when some signs or changes become more visible and can help your toddler understand and process the news, e.g., a scan picture, a growing bump, or a mummy feeling tired. Use simple words and sentences to explain that a baby will be coming to live with all of you. Then, get together as a family, look at baby pictures, and share funny baby stories!
Get your keepsakes out; talking through their baby years is a helpful thing to do. Go through old baby clothes and keepsakes and discuss how they used them when they were babies and how much they have grown!
Story time is lovely for bonding and spending quality time with your toddler, and books are an excellent tool to help your little one with their language and understanding. So grab a few books from the library to share with your toddler: Here are five book titles to get you started.
What's in your tummy, mummy? by Sam Lloyd
We're having a baby by Campbell Books
Itty Bitty Newborn by Polly Zielonka
Lola reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn/Rosalind Bearshaw
There's a house inside my tummy by Giles Andreae and Vanessa Cabban
Talk to the bump
Do some bump bonding. Pull up your top and gently rub it. Ask your little one if they want to join in, hold their hand and rub your tummy together. Take turns to talk to the bump or sing songs together. This precious time they'll spend interacting with the bump will support your toddler's understanding of what is happening.
The baby will seem more real when your little one feels or sees your bump move. However, this doesn't mean that they will like it!
If they don't like it, do not force them to touch your belly or feel offended. It is entirely normal for them not to be as excited as you. Remember, your little one is going through a wave of different emotions they don't understand yet. Give your little one enough time and space to get accustomed to this new experience.
Keep set routines the same
It is not always possible to keep your child's routine the same when a new baby arrives, but instead of having your little one adjust to a wave of changes, make small adjustments beforehand. For example, if your child is used to mum doing bedtime routines, maybe another adult in their life can take over, so if mum is busy with the newborn, your little one will not feel left out. Maintain special routines; you may want to change the time it usually occurs; for example, if you read with your toddler every day before bedtime, it may be a good idea to change it to a more convenient time of day.
Get them involved!
When the baby finally arrives, get your little one involved in some of the baby's routines. For example, ask your child if they want to help you with feeding or nappy changing. You can ask them to get and hold the nappy for the baby; they can help you by pulling the wipes out of the box for you or taking off the baby's socks. They might want to help you pour some bubble mixture into the water during bath time. Not only is this great for introducing the baby's need to your little one, but it also supports their independence too. These skills are an important part of the Montessori approach, and independence is encouraged throughout!
If your little one is desperate to hold the baby, don't make a fuss, be calm, make sure there's an adult available to help and try not to be visibly nervous or tense.
Use positive reinforcement
There will be times when your child feels left out and that the new baby is taking all of your time. Reinforce your love for them has not changed; give your little one lots of cuddles and spend some quality time with them, ask someone to look after the baby; read a favourite story, or play a game. Ensure the adults visiting the newborn give attention to your toddler too.
Try not to use the word "Don't" or "Don't touch the baby like that." Instead, try a more positive phrase, such as "I don't think the baby likes that; why don't you touch the baby this way instead." And praise your little one. Let them know what they do is meaningful and extremely helpful to you and their new baby sister or brother.
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