Monday, 29 May 2017

FAMILY: 6 Ways to prepare a toddler for having a little sibling


One of the biggest concerns when we decided to start trying for baby number two was how Isabella would deal with it. She has been lucky enough to have our sole attention for just over two years now and having that change is something I anticipate being hard for her. When the health visitor came a few weeks ago she said that if Isabella didn't play up after the initial excitement of having a newborn around then she wouldn't be a 'normal' toddler. So, I'm fully expecting some challenging behaviour and to be honest I wouldn't blame her. Her life will change and it is something she has no control over.

I read this horrible scenario somewhere on the world wide web about how to relate to your toddler's emotions and how they might be feeling throughout the process of becoming an older brother or sister. I can't remember it word for word, but essentially it was asking you to imagine your partner starts talking about another woman/man they love. They say how amazing they are, how much you are going to love them just like they already love them, that they will be coming to live with us and that you are going to help look after them. (At this point I'm thinking how heartbroken I'd be that my husband doesn't just have eyes for me anymore!) Your partner then says that this other man/woman are going to come and live with you, but it's going to be great because we'll all love each other. They will go everywhere we go and will stay with us forever more. (By now my heart would be broken and I'd be feeling devastated).

Now, hopefully toddler's aren't that emotionally intelligent to experience all the emotions we as adults would in that situation, but it got me thinking. I really hope it isn't that traumatic for Isabella and that the steps we've taken to get her accustomed to the idea will help ease any of those negative emotions. At the moment she is very excited to meet her little sister, but when reality hits that said little sister is here to stay it will be interesting to see how she handles it. I thought I'd share some of the ways we've been slowly introducing the idea of becoming a big sister to Isabella, in the hope that they may help you if you're about to/going through the same transition.

1) Take your toddler to baby scans. Now this isn't always possible, as I think you aren't allowed to have children at the NHS scans, but if you have any private scans then children are usually welcomed. During this pregnancy we've had three extra private scans (early, gender and 4D) and Isabella has come to each of these. I would say the most helpful one in relation to her beginning to understand what is in my tummy was the 4D scan at 31 weeks. The baby looked like, well a baby and Isabella could watch her wriggling around on the screen.

2) Read 'Mummy is pregnant' children's books. I bought a couple of these books from amazon for 1p each - Waiting for Baby and There's a House Inside My Mummy. Isabella has much preferred the second book from the outset, as the first one is a bit too young for her. There isn't a story to follow, but in the second one it goes through mummy feeling sick/tired all the way to meeting his little brother. When I read it to Isabella I change it to read a little sister as I go because that's what she's having.

3) Speak about the baby a lot. Suddenly springing a newborn baby on them or avoiding the topic because it makes you nervous/worried about how they'll react could make it more difficult for your toddler. As an adult I can handle a big change a lot better if I am given time to get used to it and that's the attitude we've taken with Isabella too. Baby is spoken about everyday and we've found that Isabella has often initiated her own conversation about her little sister with family/friends. At nursery she was even putting balls up her top pretending her little sister was in there!

4) Buy a doll to play with. I've read that part of the problem with becoming an older brother/sister is that the attention isn't always on them anymore. If you have a toddler that is anything like mine then you'll know how much pride comes from doing something themselves or helping in anyway. With this in mind we bought Isabella a doll, pram and crib, so that she can copy what I'll be doing with the baby. She loves putting the doll to bed, giving it a bottle and pushing it around (or 'bye Mummy going work' as she likes to say).

5) Get them involved. As I said in tip four, toddler's love to help so use this to get them involved. Isabella has helped put the baby's clean clothes away ready for her arrival, set up the moses basket, chosen some outfits etc. While getting her old clothes out for baby we've also discussed at length about how she is too big for the clothes now, so they're for baby. On the odd occasion Isabella has still become upset at the idea of them not being 'hers' anymore, so I've taken her into her new bedroom and we've looked at all the lovely clothes she has in her wardrobe. She has then agreed that she doesn't need the little clothes anymore and that baby can have them.

6) Present for baby. We have a present for Isabella from the baby, but we also thought it would be nice for Isabella to give the baby something too. That way she isn't just receiving, but she's learning to give too. She is giving her little sister the Sophiesticated - the Teether Set from Sophie La Girafe, which comes with a gift bag and card for Isabella to draw in.

Do you have any other tips/ways to prepare a toddler for becoming an older brother/sister?

Feel free to leave a comment - I love reading every single one :)

Helen x

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12 comments

  1. Ah, you're right, the scenario does sound horrific, but it must feel like that for small kids. My son was two when his brother was born and we talked about the new baby and that we would still love him just as much. He had a few problems when the new baby did arrive and I clearly remember sitting with him and explaining again how his new brother would never replace him or our love for him, and seeing the light of recognition and relief in his eyes. Even at two, he was able to understand this and be helped by it, so we should never underestimate what they can understand. We also bought Harley a present from his new brother, and gave it to him when he visited at the hospital - it was a police motorbike and he loved it, so definitely did the trick!

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  2. Great tips, thank you. Henry will be a big brother in August and he will be just shy of 2 1/2 years old.

    I've been reading There is a House inside my Mummy too and he seems to enjoy it. He also kisses my tummy and pats it when I say, where is the baby? But I don't think he understands what it all means. I don't think he will understand until the baby is here.

    Such a sad analogy of our husbands falling in love with someone else, I'd kill him, haha. But its good to know so I'm mindful of how Henry will be feeling.

    Great idea about Henry giving a gift also. I will be pinching that idea.

    This week Henry will be moving into his new room, hopefully doing it earlier will help him transition better.

    Great post x

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  3. I think communication and letting them be involved are two really important things here which actually are transferable across so many things. Sounds like you are doing a great job at helping lay the path for adjustment!

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  4. I think that taking your children to baby scans (especially if they are used to being an only child) is a great idea. That way they can feel prepared for baby number two x

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  5. Sounds like you've really thought things through and have it covered. I've not had a second child but have friends who did recently. Their 2 yo son didn't want his baby sister at first but 4 months on he is kissing and cuddling her and protective when she cries. I'm sure Isabella will be just fine as you're doing all the right things to include her.

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  6. We played with baby dolls to prepare and talked about how special being a big brother and sister is. Our 3 are devoted to each other :)

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  8. Some great advice here, we did much the same when we prepared our eldest for the arrival of his brother, and now they are best buddies :)

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  9. I absolutely love the idea of the scan as it really get them to feel involved. I had no idea books to explain exist. It's so good!

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  10. There's a House Inside My Mummy was my favourite - we used to read it all the time x

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  11. I am actually toying with the idea of having another baby, but been stuck on how to talk to my daughter about having another child.

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