Bringing a sibling into your toddler’s life can bring them so much joy—but plenty hard lessons will be learned, too; primarily the fact that they’re no longer the centre of the familial universe. Here’s how to help your eldest get to grips with their new role as big bro or sister.
Parenting expert Kathryn Mewes reassures that if and when your toddler acts up at the arrival of baby, bear in mind that from 2 onwards, young ones are ready to push boundaries, play with emotion and gain some semblance of independence anyway—this is developmentally appropriate behaviour and not necessary directly related to their new sibling (although the changed home situation can obviously exacerbate things). At this point, it’s important to not let your firstborn get lost in the chaos of dealing with a newborn; he’ll need to feel needed.
Kathryn advises the following:
- Show your toddler how to help with the baby by fetching the nappies, wipes, etc. Then ask them to do this often for you—and thank them every time.
- Tell your baby within earshot of your toddler how lucky he is to have such an amazing big brother or sister—and how much his big bro or sis can teach him.
- Ask your toddler to choose toys to bring to the baby—or help choose outfits. Then praise the choice and tell your baby again how lucky he is to get such a great item/cool outfit.
- It may feel like a whole lot of play-acting given that your newborn understands pretty much nada at this point, but all these affirmations of worth are obviously for the benefit of your toddler; they’ll also help him to understand his new special position in the family.
Another tip Kathryn recommends is the ‘shout spot’—“this is a space where you send your daughter when she isn’t ready to listen to you and do as you ask. She is placed there until she ‘is ready’. This tends to be in the hallway”. Importantly, this isn’t the same concept as a ‘naughty step’; it’s not about shaming or punishing, but acknowledging the need both of you require to cool off instead of engaging in conflict. You can also ask your child to choose the cool-off spot, so that she feels a sense of control over things.