It’s something you’ve been looking forward to with a lot of excitement. And yes, an equal amount of anxiety.
Introducing your new baby to your toddler.
You know from experience that the first few months of having a baby are the hardest. And yet, you are committed to not neglect your older child in the process and do your best to help him fall in love with the little one.
But, you have concerns…
How to balance the demands on your time to ensure that you can fill your older child’s bucket with attention while attending to the needs of the newborn?
How to ensure that your own weariness does not seep into the tentative relationship that is budding between your little angels?
What can you do to tip the relationship in favor of sibling harmony and love and all that ooey-gooey stuff, instead of life-long competitiveness, rivalry and conflicts?
Here are a few ideas to help you transition and welcome a new baby into your growing family
1. Plan the first meeting
Your being away to birth a new baby may be a difficult time for your older child. He is too young to really understand what is going on, but your absence is unsettling. There is too much activity, too much excitement, too much not-ordinary. At some level, he is worried and concerned.
While you may not be able to choreograph every moment your kids spend together (no, don’t even try), planning this first encounter to go as smoothly as possible can be very helpful.
When your older child comes to see you after your birth experience, remember, it is you he wants to connect with first. The new baby is still a stranger and comes a distant second.
If possible re-connect with a big exclusive hug and lots of reassuring kisses and cuddles. Then bring the baby in.
Make sure the attention is still on the older child. Being conscious of how you communicate your excitement can go a long way. For instance, “Look how cute your little sister is” instead of “Look how cute the baby is” can significantly impact how both your child, and you, start thinking of the role of the new baby in your lives, particularly in these early days.
2. Foster connection
A newborn is fragile and you may be justifiably worried about your (rambunctious/high energy/curious) toddler.
But pay attention to how you phrase your concerns.
Avoid phrases like “Don’t go too close to the baby” or “Don’t touch”.
Instead try saying “The baby is little and needs to be held a special way – here let me show you how to use gentle hands” and show them how to pet the baby gently. This has an added advantage that at later times, when your older one starts to get too excited, you can use simple reminders like “gentle hands.”
For more help with toddler discipline and a new baby check out: How to Discipline When A New Baby Arrives and Siblings Act Out
Stay close, but let your older one hold the new baby. Explain how his little sister still does not have strength in the neck to support the head and how she needs your help to support it for her. And connect it to how this is exactly like he himself was when he was a baby just a few years back.
3. Presents vs. Presence
Material rewards don’t necessarily have a huge place in positive parenting. Presence of a parent is always a much better alternative to physical presents.
But this is a time when your time may be stretched thin. And you simply cannot give your older child as much attention as you might like. A few presents may be helpful, if timed and chosen well.
For instance, you could have your older child choose a snuggly blanket for your baby as a “welcome to the family” present. And then you could offer a present for your older one (preferably something that he’s wanted for a long time, but you’ve been holding off on) as a “hello” present from the baby.
Every time visiting family and friends get presents for the little one, make sure it is either shared by the older one, or there is a small present for him. At the very least, take the time to explain to your older child that he received a lot of presents when he was a baby and share stories of the ones he was most attached to. Your older one may be having a hard task of adjusting to a new situation and simply cannot be expected to resolve the parity in presents on his own.
Special big brother/ big sister t-shirts and matching outfits can also go a long way in promoting harmony instead of competition.
With a little bit of thought, you can ease the new baby into your toddler’s little world with a far less push back.
That said, there is one important thing you must remember – you will likely NEVER be able to entirely eliminate sibling rivalry.
Conflict and competition among kids under the same roof is natural and unavoidable. Our role as parents is to channel it as best as we can so the little (and big) squabbles they have end up bringing them together rather than pushing them apart in the long run.
Here is an infographic about how to effectively handle sibling rivalry as the children grow up. Based on Dr. Laura Markham’s wonderful book Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings it offers concrete tips on what you can do to ensure that you are raising friends for life and not rivals who are waiting to tear each other apart every chance they get. (Note: A broken-up printable version of it is available for free download here.)
This Post and Infographic are a guest post from A Fine Parent.