Helping your toddler welcome a new baby

Explore suggestions to help your toddler transition from life without a sibling to life with one.

Toddlers need their parents' help to cope with and accept the many changes a new baby brings to their family. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Toddlers need their parents' help to cope with and accept the many changes a new baby brings to their family. Photo credit: Pixabay.

No matter how well parents prepare their toddler for the arrival of a new baby, it may take some time for the family to operate smoothly after the new baby is born. Most toddlers do not understand the concept of sharing. Toddlers simply cannot imagine why this little stranger who cries a lot, looks a little funny and doesn’t do much, demands so much of their parents’ time. Sharing time and attention with mom and dad can be frustrating and confusing. Toddlers need their parents’ help to cope with and accept the many changes the new baby brings to their family.

Typically when a new baby comes along, the toddler has formed a secure attachment to their parents and is strongly possessive about their attention and affection. It is normal for toddlers to fear losing the love of their parents. It may take some time, a few weeks or even a few months, for a toddler to learn that their parents don’t love him any less because of the new baby. As they watch the new baby consume so much of their parents’ time and energy, the toddler may feel a range of emotions including: abandoned, resentful, lonely, bad and sad.

No matter how busy or tired the new parents may be, it is crucial for them to pay attention to and acknowledge their toddler’s cues, even if these reactions are usually harmless and temporary. Both verbal and non-verbal toddlers will display their feelings and express their needs most clearly through their actions. Some may be fascinated with every detail about the new siblings, while others may show no interest in the at all with the new baby. Some toddlers may also react with hostility.

The most important thing parents can do to help their toddler overcome feelings of resentment and jealousy toward the new baby is to assure their toddler of their place in the family. A toddler may not understand all of their parents’ words, but they will understand the actions that tell them that they are still their loved, has their support and is highly valued. Change is less upsetting when a toddler operates for the secure base of strong attachment.

Some strategies for parents include:

  • Set aside some special times for just the toddler with no interruptions
  • Encourage the toddler to help the baby’s care
  • Allow the toddler to display regressive behaviors
  • Notice and praise the toddler’s attempts to act “big”
  • Tell the toddler that it’s okay to feel angry, but it is not okay to hurt others
  • Encourage their interest and curiosity, but set limits about how they handle the baby

These new siblings will need time to get to know, love and care for each other, and parents play an integral role in helping them to do just that.

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