From One Child to Two: 6 Tips to Ease the Transition

From One Child to Two: 6 Tips to Ease the Transition

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I am not a parenting expert by any stretch, but as a mother of three, I have some experience adding a new baby to the family.

I remember all too well how I agonized over adding our second child to our family, and then – surprisingly – how the same fears cropped up before our third child was born.  Adding a new baby to the family is an adjustment for everyone, and no one more so than the new big brother or big sister.

If worries about how to help your toddler adjust to a new baby are keeping you up at night, read on.  These six practical tips will help your toddler – and the whole family – adjust to the arrival of a new sibling.

1. When you introduce them, focus on your toddler

New babies are exciting, and people’s attention will naturally gravitate to the newborn.  When you introduce your toddler to the new baby, focus your attention on your toddler.

If you introduce your toddler to the baby at the hospital, remember that hospitals are big, scary, unfamiliar places to a toddler.  Make things as familiar and safe as possible for them.  Get Dad or another family member to bring them up to your room, and ask them to give you a heads up before they arrive, so you’re not preoccupied with the baby when they come in.  I like to make sure I’m not holding the baby when my older child comes in the room, so they can climb up on my lap for a hug first, then we can hold the baby together.

Temper your expectations.  While you may have pictured a heartfelt first meeting, your toddler is just as likely to be interested in the hospital bed or your leftover dinner as their new sibling.  That’s ok.  When we introduced our boys to their little sister, my mom brought cupcakes and we sang “Happy Birthday” to the new baby.  My younger son was not too interested in his new sister when he first met her at the hospital, but he was certainly interested in eating a cupcake!

Related article: First Child Versus Second Child: How Parenting Changes

2. Give your toddler jobs to do

Toddlers can be surprisingly helpful.  Once you’re home, give your older child tasks to do – grabbing diapers or a burp cloth, or throwing the dirty diaper in the garbage.  This helps them feel included, and it helped my sons feel like the new baby was “their” baby too.

Getting ready for a new baby? Help your toddler prepare for the new arrival with our picks for 18 Big Sibling Books to Prepare for a New Baby

Expecting a new baby? Prepare the new big brother or big sister for your new arrival with 18 of the best big sibling books!

3. Let your toddler be involved

When we brought our daughter home, both of our sons were incredibly curious about her.  My younger son, being a typical two year old, remembered the “gentle hands” concept about half the time.  Despite this, I gave both boys as much freedom as I could to investigate and interact with their new sister.

I let them hold her (with heavy assistance for the toddler, of course), and would lay her on the floor so they could interact with her.  I wanted to let them get to know her on their own terms.  While I was always right there to make sure that nobody was getting hurt or upset, I tried to sit back as much as possible and let the boys take the lead.

Despite my reservations, they were both extremely gentle with her.  Even my younger son, who could be a bit of a bull in a china shop at that age, seemed to naturally understand that he had to be gentle and careful around her.

4. Make the baby wait

Your toddler is going to be doing a lot of waiting while you’re busy taking care of the baby.  Whenever possible, I like to make the baby wait.  I make this very obvious to the older child by saying something like, “Sorry baby, I’m helping your brother go potty right now, I’ll help you when I’m done.”  It’s a simple thing, but it helps the toddler to recognize that while they do have to share your attention now, they don’t always come second.

5. Carve out quality time with your toddler

Newborns nap a lot (hopefully!).  If you have your toddler at home with you while you’re on maternity leave, this means you’re going to have a lot of down time at home with your toddler.  Try to carve out time during the baby’s naps to do something special with your toddler – whether it’s colouring, making a puzzle, playing cars, or whatever your toddler’s activity of choice is, give them your undivided attention.  However, don’t put pressure on yourself to make all of the time that your baby is napping quality time with your toddler.  You’ve got more than enough to do, and you need to take time for yourself too!

Related article: How to Make Time for Quality Time with Your Kids…When You’re Short on Time

6. Lower your expectations

Your house will probably not be as clean as you’d like, your toddler’s behaviour may regress, and you may feel like you barely have any time for yourself, let alone to connect with your spouse.  That’s ok, and it will get better as you all adjust to your new normal.

Finally, a reminder – screen time is ok!  A few minutes of screen time is better than the toddler barging into the nursery when you’ve almost got the baby down for a nap!

What did you do to help your toddler adjust to a new baby?

Six must-read tips to help your toddler adjust to a new baby. These practical tips will make the adjustment to two children easier for everyone!
Six practical tips to help your toddler adjust to a new baby.  These must-read tips will make the help make the adjustment to two children easier for everyone!
Six practical tips to help your toddler adjust to a new baby.  These must-read tips will make the help make the adjustment to two children easier for everyone!

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