Introducing your toddler to a newborn
The addition of a new baby into a family is always a big change. Parents are learning how to feed, settle and read cues with increased demands on time and sleep, and a newborn is adjusting to life outside the womb.
When parents welcome a second or third baby it is usually less of a learning curve for the parents than it is for the toddler or older child. For young children, it is a big transition as they adjust to sharing their parents for the first time.
The key questions parents often wonder as they prepare for a second baby are:
How can I make sure my older child feels included?
How will I juggle the demands of two (or more) children at once?
What is the best way to facilitate the introduction?
The answers lie in the relationship between us – mum, dad, parents - and our older child. There are four key things that can make this transition for our
toddler or older child relatively stress-free.
When we increase these connections before and after the arrival of a new baby, our children often don’t need to seek connection with us as much. Instead,
they feel safe and secure in the love that we are showing them.
Boundaries and spending time with your older child
It can be tempting to relax our child’s usual routine or the rules at home because they adjusting to a new baby, however it’s recommended you keep these boundaries in place as they are the guardrails that keep your child feeling safe and secure throughout any transition. They are also the secret to juggling the demands and needs of two kids at once.
When keeping or setting boundaries:
1. Be firm, clear and kind
2. Allow your child to display the feelings that flow as a result of a boundary being in place.Show empathy and help your child put words to the feelings they are experiencing.
For example, “It can be really hard to be a big sister sometimes” or “I know, you really wanted that ice cream.”
Allow your toddler to lead
After a separation from mum and dad while the new baby was born, many toddlers will need to reconnect with their parents first before they show any interest in their new sibling.
Some children will be absolutely bursting to meet their new sibling and often, once they have examined tiny fingers and toes, they may seek this connection. It helps to be ready for this and meet it with a big “I have missed you so much, I am so happy to be home with you!”
No perfect parents
It is impossible to meet our kids’ needs all of the time. Both our older child and our baby will have to wait for a cuddle or feed as we change a nappy or tend to a scaped knee.
Having two young children is a real juggle and most of us need reminding that good enough (not perfect) parenting is more than sufficient for our kids.
Statistics show that if we focus on connection, boundaries, and dealing with kids’ feelings just 30 per cent of the time, it’s enough to foster a secure child. Most parents are often relieved to hear this!
Finally, no one knows your child better than you. Follow your instincts and know you have everything within you to meet their needs during the period of transition while you welcome a new baby to the family.
About Genevieve Muir and Mater Maternity
Genevieve Muir is an obstetric social worker at The Mater Private Hospital and runs the Mater’s Transition from Hospital to Home program to help new parents navigate the first few months at home with a newborn. She is also a parent educator, Circle of Security Facilitator, and mum to four boys. For more information on the Mater Maternity, see www.maternaternity.com.au