Whether it’s a new sibling, a house move, divorce, loss of a relative or even something minor like changing bedrooms, change within our families is often a concept with which, toddlers struggle. The challenge for all parents is to help make the changes as comfortable as possible.
While any parent of young children knows that sticking to a routine is never easy, it’s important to retain as much familiarity as possible in your child’s life. Many parents think that a period of change is a good time to tackle other issues, such as behaviour problems, in one fell swoop but we strongly advise against this.
Your child is likely feeling vulnerable already, which means that introducing any adverse pressure may well prove counterproductive.
This is particularly salient when it comes to the new sibling situation. Young children are sometimes going to be jealous of a new baby in the family and the fuss that everyone makes of the new arrival. They may act up by being naughty or trying to ‘smother’ the new baby in love but end up being too attentive and heavy-handed in their attempts to interact with the new sibling. This is, in most cases normal and should be addressed by talking to the older child and guiding them in how to behave.
While you must demonstrate understanding as your child shifts into their new role as an older sibling, that’s not to say that acting out should always be tolerated. Your younger child deserves to have all the same experiences as the first one and the first one needs to understand that they are no longer top dog and will need to learn to share the attention.
Many parents choose to have their second child two or three years after the first. This inevitably means that you will be dealing with toddler milestones when the second child comes along. While you will not be able to plan for every eventuality, you and your partner (if you have one) should sit down before the baby arrives to discuss how you will divide responsibility with the older sibling.
If you are usually the one that takes your child to the toilet and helps them with potty training, try to stick with this as far as possible. If you think this is unrealistic, make a gradual shift in the weeks or months before your baby is born to have the other parent or caregiver share the reins.
In fact, milestones are a way that you can bring the family closer together. Explain to your toddler that their new brother or sister is also going to face lots of new challenges as they grow up and even in their early days.
As we always say, communication is such an important skill to teach your child so grab hold of this opportunity. Talk about everything – when you put nappies on the newborn, show your toddler and tell them that you used to do this for them when they were a baby. Ask them for their help, even if it’s not truly needed, to make sure they feel included and wanted.
Don’t forget, it is even possible that your child will falter in their milestones or even regress due to the many changes going on around them. Go with it and show understanding if they have accidents or appear reluctant to continue where they left off.
They are likely feeling nervous and unsure, and they will certainly start up again when they are ready. Show encouragement and, above all, don’t let the circumstances of any change overrule your child’s need for love and positive attention especially during important milestones.