When you find out you are expecting another baby so many exciting thoughts and feelings enter your head. You can’t wait for this new addition to your family and you want the world to know it. But when this the best time to tell your toddler about the new sibling? You know it is going to mean big changes for them, so you want to do it in a way that takes into account their thoughts and feelings and helps them adjust to their new sibling.
A new baby is certainly a big change for a toddler. Whether they have been an only child or a younger sibling it changes their world as they know it. So, this will mean lots of new emotions for them. Some positive ones, and some negative ones.
The best time to tell a toddler.
Toddlers aren’t great timekeepers. They just don’t have a great sense of time. Even a single minute can feel like an eternity for them. This means that if you introduce your pregnancy and the arrival of a new sibling when you are in your first trimester they don’t understand the long wait ahead before they meet their sibling. And given that they will have big emotions about it, this is a long time to carry those emotions around and can even heighten them.
We suggest waiting until the last trimester starts before you let your toddler know about the baby, even though many family and friends might have already found out over 3 months ago. As you talk to your toddler about a new baby, getting a few books might help them understand what it all means. Look for books about bringing home a new baby or about what it is like to have a new baby in the family.
Common reactions to a new baby.
It is important to be mindful that your toddler might show some regressions in their behavior. They may start to act more babyish as they try to make sense of their role in the family. Try to refrain from asking them to act their age and instead just remind yourself that it is normal. Let your toddler know that they still hold a special place in your heart and they are still your baby. Give your toddler lots of hugs and affection, as that is what they truly need.
Expect that your toddler may express negative thoughts or feelings about the new baby. My biggest suggestion for this is to not dismiss them but instead validate their feelings. It is normal, and to be expected, that they will feel a myriad of emotions about the baby before and after it is born. If you dismiss their feelings or say something like “Of course you love ( or will love) the baby” then your toddler may feel like their perfectly normal reactions are wrong and are something to be ashamed of.
As the due date approaches.
A week or two before you are due to have your baby, they need to know the plan – roughly when you may head to the hospital, what will happen to them when you do and if and when they will meet the new baby. And be sure to let them know that although you’ll be away for a few days you will be coming back. Your toddler needs to in the know so that there are no surprises when the big day arrives.
Encourage the people looking after your toddler to keep their routine as normal as possible while you aren’t looking after them. This will help keep them their anxiety to a minimum.
Helping adjust once the baby arrives.
If you want to, you can have your toddler meet the new baby in the hospital. You can even have a gift prepared for your toddler from the new baby. This makes them feel important to the new baby. You can even introduce the new baby to the toddler. “Baby meet your big brother…. This sets the scene for your toddler that they are still a very important member of the family. You can even have your toddler sitting on your lap while the baby is bought to them, so it doesn’t feel like the baby has taken that important position.
Once you get home the reality of having a new baby affects toddlers in many different ways. Some toddlers will love their little toddler from the very first. Others may feel dislike, upset or anger. You may even find your toddler will love your new baby at first and then suddenly start expressing negative emotions. All of these reactions are completely normal.
It is also normal to have a regression in behavior. As an example, a potty-trained child may start having more accidents.
Remember, as I said earlier that we need to validate any negative feelings that a toddler expresses about the baby. These feelings are real and important to them. It can be normal for a toddler to feel like the baby is taking attention away from them and feel both anger and frustration because of it. Let your toddler know how important they are to you and that they are still your baby too. When you can, prioritize toddler-led 1:1 time with your toddler so that you can show them how important they are to you. Let them tell you what they’d love to do with you!
We wish you our heartfelt congratulations on the impending arrival of your new baby! If you find this article useful please pop over to our Facebook Page or tag us in your Instagram posts to let us know how much. We look forward to hearing from you!
Also, if you’d like to have your consultation to discuss your parenting challenges, please head check out our behavior consultations. We’d love to help you!