Your first child oscillates between excitement about a new baby coming and intense jealousy. A lot of second time mommies are worried about how their young toddler will adjust to the newest member.
Toddlers are known to react with aggression, regression and jealousy. This might give you some anxious moments. However knowing how to handle this negativity will help you lay the groundwork for a peaceful sibling relationship right from the start.
- Acknowledge the change: Do not treat your child’s aggression as a needless tantrum. You have to acknowledge that as far as your child is concerned, this baby is an imaginary friend. They are yet to learn to deal with your mood swings, fatigue and general excitement about the impending event. Try to validate their concern.
- Put off changes: If your toddler was supposed to start preschool, get potty trained or moved from your bed to their own room – make any big changes as far away from the due date as possible. Your child should not mistake the changes to be a result of the new baby coming.Rather explain to them how it is a part of growing up.
- Do not play the baby card: Your child expects you to carry them, sit on the floor to play with and do all other activities with them before you got pregnant. With your stomach, swollen ankles and feet and fatigue, it might not be possible to do that anymore. Instead of blaming your baby bump, tell them that your leg or back hurts or that you are unusually tired today. Do not mention your pregnancy or baby at all.
- Manage expectations: Do not tell your child that the new baby will be his playmate or that will create unreasonable expectations of an instant playmate as soon as the baby is born. Your child will be annoyed and disappointed to find out that all that the baby does is sleep, feed and cry.
- Get them familiar: They do not understand what babies are all about. Take them to friends’ houses with babies or invite them over. Also, point out anyone you know who recently had a younger sibling.
- Make them the star: Tell them that the baby is going to look up to them to learn. Let them know that you need them to protect and take care of them as they are helpless without them.
- Create and maintain routines: Use these nine months to get your child into a routine that requires minimum supervision. That way even when your baby arrives they will be independent and give you some breathing space.
- Sensitize other adults: You might have many well wishers who drop in and ask your child if they are “excited”. Your child might not understand this undue focus on an invisible baby. Tell your friends to greet and talk to your child without mentioning the baby first. Ask them to make your child feel that the new baby is very lucky to have them as the elder sibling. Specifically no mention of “Now you are a big boy/girl” should be made in the baby’s context.
Do not worry too much. As long as your older child feels that they are important and loved, things will work out.