Preparing a toddler for the arrival of a new baby is a strategy in itself. It takes research, patience, determination and most importantly communication with your toddler to try and figure out.
For the past six months I’ve spent a great deal of time communicating with our daughter about the upcoming change in our lives. I feel it’s extremely important to talk about the baby’s arrival at the beginning of your pregnancy. It is important for them to know what is going on and see how you are feeling. Some parents may disagree with me, they may say, “Why tell her your pregnant right away and why make her see when you are not feeling well?”. My answer – I’m not saying tell her the day you take a pregnancy test (yet I did though) or have her see you sick in the morning. Rather, I am saying that it’s important to expose them as early as possible to the pregnancy. This in turn, exposes them to their future reality. It will allow them to better cope with the change and process the new family dynamic.
With that being said, I’ve spent months educating and exposing my daughter to the changes ahead. I’ve developed a list of what has worked for us and that I believe will help your toddler become more aware of the changes ahead.
- Do you want a sibling? I spent a few months asking her if she wanted a baby brother/sister. There were many times she said “NO,” but many times that she said yes. I talked with her (in 3-year old terms) all of the fun that comes with a sibling (I left out she has to share toys though!). We talked about how our family would change for the better and how it may affect her.
- Result – she understands as best as she can that a baby is on the way.
- I’m Pregnant! We decided to tell our daughter very early on that I was pregnant and she had such a big smile on her face. Also, we told her to try and keep it a secret. She did it as best as she could and only spilled the beans to her entire preschool. We knew she wouldn’t be able to contain herself, and we laughed weekly at who she told and how she broke the news. It was quiet humorous.
- Result – she was excited about the upcoming baby, she felt she was a part of a great little secret we would soon share with family and friends.
- I’m not feeling well. I was open about the way she saw me in those early months of pregnancy. I didn’t complain to her a lot by any means, but rather, I enlisted her help in getting me some water, crackers or an ice pack.
- Result – she felt so good about herself for being a big helper and she enjoyed helping her mom. This will expose her to the help we might enlist her with when the baby arrives. Research has shown the more a toddler is involved in the early weeks and months of baby’s arrival, the less they will be upset with the new change. Toddlers love to help!
- Ultrasound anyone? I encouraged her to come with me to doctor appointments early on. She was able to see the baby on the screen, hear the heartbeat and even take some pictures home to put in her room.
- Result – She felt proud. She enjoyed the doctor appointments and even got upset with me when I didn’t take her to one. She learned about how a baby grows and the importance (to some extent) of taking care of your body.
- Let’s Decorate. Anyone who knows me knows that I love Marshall’s Home Goods. I love the store, I wish I worked there as a buyer and could literally spend every weekend there (wait – I think I already do?). Well, so does our daughter. She loves going there, enjoys buying some items with her “piggy bank money” and even better – she gets to decorate a little baby’s room. Granted, she might not have the best in taste (everything can’t be stickers and glitter).
- Result – she felt a part of the decision making process in how to decorate and arrange a room.
- Let’s Talk. In between all the fun stuff we do, we talk about the changes this baby will bring. We talk about not being able to play with her anytime she wants, or her having to wait a few minutes to eat lunch while I feed the baby. We talk about how she will have to share and how she will have to learn patience when a new baby comes into the house.
- Result – there are many times she is annoyed and frustrated and doesn’t want the baby to come. While it’s not the result I was looking for, there are many other times where she is excited and ready to show the baby how our family operates. She knows just a little more than she would have if I didn’t have these talks with her. She knows that it’s going to be hard sometimes, but that mom and dad promise it won’t last a long time. She knows that each week, we will spend individual one-on-one time with her and as a family each week, she gets to choose between a run to the local toy or ice cream store. Yes, you heard it right, I am going to take her weekly for a treat, because I know it’s going to be hard for her and I just want her to know that there will be happy times throughout the weeks. She will be able to “drive the bus” and tell us where we will go. This encourages leadership skills in my book.
No matter what preparation efforts my husband, self or daughter undergo, going from a family of three to four will be an adjustment. There will be tantrums and crying and fighting. However, I am confident that the actions listed above will help for a smoother transition.