A lot of my friends with children around S’s age are either pregnant, or have just had a second baby. I’ve watched my friends go through their second pregnancies with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, worried about how their older child would react to this interloper muscling in on their territory.
The best way I’ve heard of explaining how a toddler might feel about a new baby coming home with their parents is: imagine if your husband came home one day with a new wife.
With this in mind, I have watched as my friends – and my sister – have brought their new little bundles home to their slightly older little bundles. Some children have responded with excitement, wanting to hold the baby, feed the baby, change the baby, show the baby off to their friends – and have ended up in a puddle of tears on the floor when they’ve not been able to do those things with quite as much gusto as they would like. Others have decided from the outset that they were not prepared to accept this impostor, attempting to hit or push the newborn whenever possible. They to have ended up in tears, when they’ve ultimately failed in their mission to remove the new baby from their house!
The world is not populated entirely by families with one child though (outside of China, I mean); many families have three, four or even more children. How do they cope? Here are some top tips..
- Baby brings a gift: I have younger brothers and sisters, and I remember new babies coming into my childhood home with a gift for me.
- Time without baby: wherever possible, have dedicated time each day or week where it’s just you and the older child. This is much easier if there are two parents in the house, as you can take it in turns.
- Ask for help – from the toddler! All toddlers love to feel like they’re older, bigger, more helpful. Even if they’re just holding the wipes when you change a nappy or getting a blanket from the other room, they love to feel like they’re the most helpful person in the world. Lots of toddlers love to help dress babies as well, and 17% of adults with siblings recall their parents allowing them to do this to help create a natural sibling bond.
- Make playtime a group thing. Obviously, a newborn can’t join in with stacking Lego or zooming cars around the living room, but the parent holding the child can sit on the floor and be a part of the toddler’s play so that they don’t feel they’ve been left out. 27% of adults with siblings recall their parents using this as a successful way of welcoming a new baby to the home.
- Practise taking deep breaths and letting it go. It doesn’t matter if you don’t vacuum today, or the washing up is left for tomorrow. A stressed parent is no good to anyone. Chill out and relax.
- Do things together. Children love bath time; obviously a bath with a newborn will be a more sober affair, but you can compromise by having the baby in the bath only for the first half of bath time. It’s also fun to let the big brother or sister help with things like rubbing in cream, applying powder, gently drying hair, telling them “I did this with you when you were a baby!”
- Talk. Even if your older child is not quite reciting Shakespeare yet, you can bet they understand what you’re saying to them. Talk to them. All the time. About everything. Help them to feel they’re still a massive part of your life and very important by acknowledging them and including them.
- 26% of adults who have younger siblings recall being allowed to hold the new baby as a way of including them in what was going on.
Do you have any tips to add?