Is your little one about to be promoted to big sister or big brother?
Although change always has some hurdles, throughout your pregnancy and after the birth of your new addition you can maintain your connection by including your child and coaching them with what to expect during this time.
No doubt It’s a big transition for everyone to wrap their heads around, (especially going from 1-2 children). As a mum of 3, I definitely found this the more challenging compared to going from 2-3!
Where our whole world has revolved around our first born (and them only) now we’ll need to recalibrate to a new normal whilst taking into account where your current child(ren) is at developmentally.
It’s natural for a regression in both behaviour and sleep to occur as your family adjusts, but before we dive into the key focus areas of this blog, I want to encourage you to be patient with yourself and your child as you prepare for the arrival of a new sibling.
This time of transition is different for every family and some factors that may play an influencing role include:
- Your little one’s current age
- General day to day temperament of your child
- The age gap with the new baby
- Whether this is the second, third, fourth child and so on
1. How do you prepare your baby for the arrival of their new sibling?Include your child in the process right from the moment you tell them you’re expecting.
You can do this by:
- Talking openly and regularly about the upcoming changes
- Grabbing some books about becoming a big sibling
- Taking them with you to appointments
- Including them in decorating the nursery by letting them choose something special to be part of their new sibling’s room.
Expert tip: Don’t feel pressure to transition to a big bed too early. If your little one is going to be less than 2.5-3 years when bub is born, consider buying a second cot. If you are looking to make the transition, then ideally do this at least 3-4 months before or after the baby is born. This allows plenty of transition time. I’ve written a blog specifically for transitioning to a big bed which will help identify signs of readiness in your toddler and prepare them for a smooth transition. Read it here.
2. Do some role play.
This can be really helpful as children naturally learn from watching us and what happens around us. K-mart have some great “real life” dolls you can purchase to demonstrate to your baby/toddler what you’ll be spending a lot of time doing.
Communicate and demonstrate with the doll that there will be lots of feeding, changing nappies and settling to start with. Once they understand this, explain that as the baby gets older, they’ll be lots of fun to play with, but as a newborn they can be a bit boring.
Expert Tip: Show them pictures of themselves as a baby so they can understand the concept of a newborn (this is a great time for bonding too as you can share memories about what they were like as a newborn).
Kelly’s Personal Insight: I think the arrival of my second daughter was a bit of a “let down” to my first daughter. Everyone, (especially me) had hyped up how exciting it was going to be to get a new baby sister to play with and then she got this “blob” that just ate, slept, fed, cried and took up all mummy’s attention. It was such a big shift in everyone’s emotions and something I didn’t feel prepared for. #Mumguilt.
3. Implement positive encouragement and reinforcement for desirable behaviour.
It’s common for behaviour to regress in older siblings as they lash out with the shift in attention. Allow plenty of one-on-one time with your older child/children to fill up their emotional cup and love tank.
This doesn’t need to involve complex planning or creative thinking (you’re already mentally stretched enough) so even 10 minute intervals of one-on-one focus time can work wonders. The aim during this time is to focus solely on them and it can be as simple as doing an activity they enjoy doing with you. Ensure someone else holds the baby for this time and that there are no other distractions such as mobile phones.
Expert Tip: If your child does lash out, take them aside to name the emotion they’re feeling and let them know it’s not appropriate.
“I can see you’re frustrated, but I can’t let you hit your baby sister….show me your gentle hands and we can play a game together”.
Children love attention and they especially want the attention back on them (just like it used to be before the new arrival came into the world).
At times your child may feel that some attention, even if gained through unacceptable behaviour is better than no attention. We want to steer the attention away from the negative behaviour and hype up the positives.
Expert Tip: Try to watch for opportunities to commend and appreciate when your little one is doing something that you like and want to see more of. This will encourage this behaviour moving forward as they thrive on the praise.
There are also lots of great books that talk about emotions and teach children to understand the concepts of “happy, sad, angry, jealous,”. These concepts take years to fully understand so will require patience over weeks, months and even years, but exploring this with your child now will help to build an emotionally intelligent and responsible little human being.
I highly recommend checking out Tracey Moroney’s “The Feelings Series” . These books are a wonderful resource that help distinguish and identify different emotions and provide prompts for you to create discussion with your little one about what they may be feeling.
4. Keep regular routines
Maintaining consistency is really important for children in their day-to-day routine. They don’t really like change (a bit like us) so if you’re going to need to share the bedtime load and daddy doesn’t currently put toddler to bed, get in practice early by alternating nights.
Expect some push back and boundary testing, remember we don’t like change so it’s natural.
There will be setbacks, good days and bad days, (we’re only human and doing the best we can), all whilst recovering from growing a baby and giving birth so be confident, acknowledge those feelings and follow through on that boundary to build a safe and secure response.
Expert Tip: Allow time for adjustment, but try not to introduce old sleep props/ or props that were not there to start with.
Even if they’re young, children understand more than we give them credit for. Being open and honest about the impending changes to the family dynamic will build a strong foundation for your child’s understanding.
Although every child is different, using the key steps in this blog is a solid way to remind them they’re a valued member of the family. Staying connected through little pockets of time (either allocated or spontaneously) throughout the day will help to reassure your little one.
Want some extra help?
For extra tips on separation anxiety read the blog How to ease separation anxiety and the impact it can have on your sleep.
Follow me on Instagram for more hints and tips on introducing a new sibling plus other common sleep questions.