One of my biggest concerns at having a second child was how to prepare our son for it. After all, us adults were struggling a little to understand how we’d cope with two children. How could we expect a toddler to take it in?! With our second child due a week after our son’s second birthday, it meant that he was in that tricky age; not quite old enough to understand but old enough to realise that things were changing. Yay. I spent hours scouring the internet to try and find the best ways to prepare an older sibling for the arrival of a new baby. In the end, I think we found ourselves in a pretty prepared place so here are some of the things that we tried in order to get our two year old ready for sibling-hood.
We jumped straight in at the deep end and bought our son a doll for Christmas. A rag doll boy, perfect for carrying around, cuddling and… driving over on his tractor?! Turns out that the role play that we imagined wasn’t quite as successful as we’d hoped it would be. The first couple of hours of ‘nice’ play were quickly replaced with some rough and tumble that no baby would ever survive. It did however give me plenty of opportunity to practice cuddling a ‘baby’ and showing the toddler how to give cuddles, how to put the baby in the moses basket etc. And for anyone concerned, he’s not attempted to run over his sister with his tractor… yet. Moral of the story: don’t panic if the role play doesn’t work.
We read a couple of books about babies coming with our favourite being ‘There’s A House Inside My Mummy‘. We read books every night at bedtime so it was nice to be able to read the story and then have a cuddle with the bump. It’s amazing what toddlers can take in, especially when they’re looking at the illustrations and listening to the same tale over and over so I think this was one of the best ways of helping to prepare him, coupled with…
Talking To The Bump
Yep, after reading our bedtime book we’d do a bit of bedtime bump bonding. I’d pull up my top and our son would sing (read: shout) Twinkle Twinkle at my stomach to ‘put the baby to bed’. He also got into the habit of giving my bump a kiss, sometimes under duress. I’m not entirely sure he could equate bump to baby but it started to get him into a mindset of caring for his sibling and helping out as a big brother. It also helped stop him from using my stomach as a trampoline or seat! Even now, he’ll sing Twinkle Twinkle to his sister when she’s upset or when it’s time for bed and I can’t help but think that it all stems from that early nighttime routine. Either way, it makes me an emotional wreck every single time.
Talk About Them As A Baby
As we got the baby bits out, talking my son through his baby years was a really helpful thing to do. We went through them and chatted about how he used to use them when he was a baby. Rather than deterring him from touching the baby stuff, we used it as chances to show him how much he’d grown. Would he fit in the baby cardigan? Should we try it on to see? What about the car seat? Could Mummy still carry him in that? Cue plenty of laughter from him and hopefully a bit more understanding as to how he wasn’t a baby any more.
It’s hard for someone so small to understand a concept like a new sibling. It’s difficult to explain to them why they can’t have this or that anymore or that they have to share their parents/space/toys… Instead, we found that throwing the odd treat in here and there helped to cushion the blow. I’m not talking huge gifts, but rewarding them with a ‘grown up’ toy because they’re giving up their baby things can be a great distraction for little minds. Even better if those rewards are experiences or time with you. Just be careful not to fall into the trap of always giving them treats, then it’s not a treat, it’s an expectation and that’s a hard thing to break. Trust me. I’m still doling out ‘treats’ at every nursery pick up six months later.
Not Expecting Too Much
Can you imagine being the centre of someone’s world and then suddenly all they want to do is talk about someone else?! Me either. Maybe your toddler isn’t feeling the sibling vibe. Maybe they say that they don’t want the baby. Try not to put too much pressure on them or yourself to be all hearts and flowers about the impending arrival. It doesn’t matter if you go days without mentioning the baby, one of the best things we did was just to go with the flow and drop the baby into conversation every now and then without making it a big thing. Ultimately, he was getting a sibling whether he liked it or not and let’s face it, toddlers are hardly renowned for their reasonableness. Take the pressure off, lower your expectations and know that regardless of how they feel now, they will come round to the idea. Eventually.