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Opinion

25th Sep 2023

How to help your toddler adapt when a new baby comes home

Aisling Keenan

This is a non-exhaustive, but hopefully helpful, step-by-step guide to welcoming a new sibling into your family from the perspective of a toddler.

Sure, having a baby is an exciting time. But for your existing children, particularly toddlers who haven’t yet developed logic and reasoning, it can be overwhelming and leave them more than a little bit put out.

Ensuring a smooth transition for your little one is important, and can reduce the stress on mams and dads who are in the immediate postpartum period.

In Ireland, families with more than one child are in the majority. According to the Central Statistics Office, over 70% of Irish families have two or more children, so the first thing to know in this is that you’re not alone.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to adapt your toddler to the arrival of a new sibling.

Announce the arrival
Share the exciting news with your toddler. Use simple language they can understand and show enthusiasm about becoming a big brother or sister.

Include them
Take your toddler along when shopping for baby supplies. Let them choose some items for the new baby, like a special toy or onesie. Involve them in setting up the baby’s room or area, if possible. Ask for their help in arranging baby clothes or decorating.

Read about what’s the come
Read books about new siblings and family changes. These can help your toddler understand what to expect. Share stories of when they were a baby. This helps them feel special and connected to the new baby.

Keep things normal
Stick to your toddler’s routine as much as possible. Consistency provides a sense of stability during times of change.

Visit pals who have babies
Arrange playdates with friends who have babies. This allows your toddler to become familiar with the idea of having a sibling.

Explain their role
Talk to your toddler about their important role as a big brother or sister. Emphasise how they can help and teach the baby when they arrive.

Set up a space for them
Create a special space in the house for your toddler as a big brother or sister. This can be a chair with their name on it or a shelf for their achievements. Something that’s just for them.

Plan their first meeting
When the baby arrives, arrange a meeting between your toddler and the new sibling. Allow them to touch and observe the baby, under supervision, until they are comfortable.

Give them lots of attention, when possible
While caring for the new baby, make sure to spend quality one-on-one time with your toddler. This reassures them that they are still loved and they’re still your priority.

Let them express themselves
Let your toddler express their feelings, even if they include jealousy or frustration. Acknowledge their emotions and reassure them. 

All that said, this is one piece of advice we think is very, very important…

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