It’s one of the big challenges of growing a family – how can you make sure that your existing children get along with a new arrival? It’s a time of big change for everybody, and here are a few ideas as to how to minimise disruption and keep your little ones from getting too jealous of their new siblings.
Before the arrival
It’s important to start talking things through with your child with plenty of advance warning. They are going to need to understand that babies are going to be noisy, won’t be able to play with them at first and are going to need a lot of your attention while they are very small. A good way to help your toddler understand what babies are like it through a book. There are plenty of great picture books aimed at introducing the idea of a new baby, so consider buying one to help your toddler understand what you're talking about. It’s probably a good idea to start broaching the subject around the same time you tell everybody else – any sooner and the concept will likely seem too far away for a young mind to grasp! Another thing that is best started early is introducing changes to daily life. For example, if you’re going to need to move your toddler’s bed to make space for the new baby this is best done well in advance, that way it won’t seem as if their new brother or sister is kicking them out of ‘their’ room. In addition to minimizing any initial feelings of jealousy, this will make things a lot easier for you as it can spare you having to deal with change-induced tantrums towards the end of your term!
Before the arrival you can get your toddler involved in preparations in small ways. Perhaps you can have them help them choose if you can’t decide between two styles of curtains for the baby’s nursery, let them help open any ‘new baby’ gifts you receive, or help them make a gift for the baby. This will help stop your toddler from feeling left out, and their involvement can be continued even after their sibling is born. Just getting them to help out by passing you nappies or entertaining the baby with a song or silly faces can make them feel a sense of it being ‘their’ baby brother or sister. Be careful not to force this, though, as the last thing you need is to make interacting with the newborn a chore.
And then there were two…
Of course a newborn is going to require a lot more attention out of necessity, but that doesn’t mean your older child has to take a back seat all the time. If you always drop everything for the baby it can breed resentment, so every once in a while let the baby wait for a few minutes if you’re in the middle of something with your toddler – after all, your infant will most likely not remember the wait at all, whereas the older child may well hold on to the memory and let it fester. Another idea is to let a relative look after the younger child so you can spend some one-on-one time with your toddler. The general idea is to reassure them that you still have enough time and love to give them in spite of their sibling's demands.
Remember to take care of yourself, as well; eating healthily and getting as much sleep as you can will help you deal with any pressures and difficult situations so much easier, and you'll soon fall into a routine.