There’s nothing quite like the excitement and thrill of discovering you’re expecting a baby. If you already have one child, the second addition to the family is no less exciting. It will be lovely to see your little one grow up with a younger sibling to play and learn with. However, if your firstborn is still very young, it can be difficult for them to comprehend what’s happening. In fact, second pregnancies can be overwhelming and traumatic for toddlers if you aren’t careful.
This guide will give you some tips on how you can make the transition from a single child to a sibling a little easier for your toddler.
Breaking the news
Telling your child about your pregnancy will be different, depending on how old your child is and how far along in the pregnancy you are. For instance, you’ll explain the situation more carefully to a 2-year-old versus a 5-year-old. If your child is one or older, they will probably understand what you’re trying to say.
Tell them what’s coming.
Be honest about what’s about to happen. Tell them that there’s “a baby in my tummy, and soon it will come out, and you’ll have a sister or brother.” For many kids, this explanation will be enough, and they will accept it.
If your son or daughter is a little older, you may need to explain the situation in more detail. Let them know when the baby is due to arrive in terms that they’ll understand. If they’re in school, for instance, you could say that the baby is due during the next summer holiday.
Answer their questions honestly and carefully.
Most children will have plenty of questions about your pregnancy. Some will be curious about how the baby got there, others will want to know if it will be a boy or a girl, and others will ask about what life will be like once the baby arrives.
Try to answer all of your child’s questions openly. Don’t be evasive and avoid uncomfortable questions. Explain that certain questions are impossible to answer yet. For other difficult questions, don’t go into graphic detail, but answer truthfully.
This guide to answering toddler’s questions is superb if you don’t know where to start!
What to expect from your toddler’s reaction
Most parents become nervous about telling their toddler about a new baby in the family because of the reaction they’ll get. Reactions can vary vastly, depending on the age and personality of your toddler. No reaction is invalid or ‘wrong.’ Accept that your toddler may react in a myriad of ways and prepare to comfort them or celebrate with them.
Some toddlers may be excited about the news. You’ll find that they never stop talking about their new sibling to you and their friends. Other toddlers will react badly, throwing more and more tantrums and vying for your attention. Some toddlers who are unsure about the news will alternate between the two extremes. Accept that all of these reactions are ‘normal.’ Continue to tell them the truth about the situation, and reassure them that you’ll always love them.
Preparing for the new arrival
Once you’ve told your toddler the news about your new baby, try to incorporate the baby into your daily life in the lead-up to his or her arrival. This will help to normalize the idea of having a sibling before the big day arrives. It will also help your child to learn about what their role in the baby’s life will be.
Give them a doll to take care of.
To teach them about caring for a sibling, buy your child a special new doll. Teach them about holding the doll, feeding the doll, comforting the doll, and so on. Some toddlers will immediately show gentle, caring behavior, while others will lose interest and toss the doll aside. Don’t worry if your child shows no interest. This is no indication of what their behavior will be like with the real baby.
Watch movies about siblings.
For your child to become excited about having a little brother or sister, show them some positive examples of sibling relationships. Frozen is a great place to start. Other movies with great sibling characters include Narnia and The Incredibles. Of course, choose age-appropriate movies for your child to watch.
Start to talk excitedly about life with a sibling.
Incorporate the new sibling into your toddler’s daily routine. For instance, at breakfast, you could mention that soon, another member of the family will be sitting at the table. Or, when you’re playing with your toddler, you might muse about which toys the new baby will like to play with one day.
Try to talk about the baby playing or eating with your firstborn child. This way, your child will become excited about the new arrival rather than nervous and jealous.
Pamper your child in the lead-up.
While you should talk about the new baby from time to time, you should also try to be extra attentive to your toddler. Even if your toddler isn’t showing it, they will likely be apprehensive about the baby. The new arrival will be a dramatic change in the family dynamic, and the idea of sharing your affection will probably make them nervous.
Be sure to shower your toddler with love during your pregnancy. You might want to get them a special gift, such as one of these adorable Bitsy Bug Boutique dresses, or a new game they’ve been asking for. You could also consider planning a special experience with your toddler like a trip to the beach or a special one-on-one picnic.
Telling your toddler about their expected brother or sister can be scary. Your toddler may be thrilled, or they may be devastated. Remember, everything will change as your two children grow up together. They’ll undoubtedly go through their ups and downs as siblings. All you can do now is to prepare your firstborn for becoming an older brother or sister. Remember, try to be honest, attentive, and positive about the new arrival, and your toddler will likely be calm and positive about their sibling.
We’d love to hear about your experiences preparing a toddler for a new sibling.
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