For the better part of 9 months, you’ve been preparing your toddler (or so you thought) for the arrival of their little brother or sister. You’ve let them feel your belly, you’ve read them books about being a big sibling, you’ve allowed them to spend time around other babies, and perhaps you even let them do things around the nursery to get ready to bring the baby home. However, now that your newborn is actually here, your toddler doesn’t seem to be as welcoming.
Your toddler is throwing tantrums asking you to send the baby back where it came from, they’re going to great extremes to get your attention (even if it means doing something bad), they call the baby names, and may even try to be violent towards their new brother or sister. Some women may find that their toddlers are suddenly acting like babies again with thumb sucking, soiling their underwear (although they’re potty trained), wanting you to feed them, and even demanding that you rock them to sleep.
Remember It’s Natural (And You’re Not Alone)
Though you did a lot of preparing your toddler for the arrival of the newborn, nothing quite compares to the real experience. The newborn will need a lot more attention from mom and dad. Your toddler sees this, and in their tiny minds may begin to feel jealous of all the attention their brother or sister is receiving. Not knowing how to express what they’re going through verbally, your toddler will begin acting out or regressing to habits from the past to get you to pay attention.
Ways to Cope
So, how do you get your toddler to stop acting out? The trick is, to not lash out or respond negatively to your toddler’s behaviors. Doing so only makes them feel worse and reinforces those inner feelings that this little baby has “stolen” their parents. As hard as it may be for you to keep your cool, take a few deep breaths, enlist some help (from your significant other, family, friends, etc), and try some of these coping strategies listed below:
One-on-One Time – Though your schedule is packed and you barely get enough sleep as it is, the more quality time you’re able to spend with your toddler, the more they’ll come to realize that they are still very special in the eyes of mom and dad. Whether it’s 15-minutes of playtime in the mornings before school or 30-minutes of watching a special television program after dinner, this means a lot to your toddler. The idea here, however, is to try and spend this time without the baby around.
Ask for Their Help – Being a big brother or sister is a really rewarding role and something to be proud of. However, your toddler is not aware of this yet. You can help them fill their role and feel great about it by asking for their assistance with the baby. If it’s time for a feeding, ask your toddler to help by holding the bottle or wiping the baby’s mouth with a bib. If you’re going for a walk, ask big bro or big sis to help you push the stroller. Changing a diaper? Ask your little tike to pass you the diaper and wipes. As they do these things, make sure that you sing their praises and explain how glad you are that they were able to help.
Be Patient with Regression – If your toddler does begin acting like “a baby” again, don’t panic. You should not reprimand them or make them feel bad for behaving this way. Instead, practice patience. Go ahead and baby them for a bit so they know you care, but during periods where your toddler is behaving appropriately, sing their praises so they know that mom and dad will love them no matter how old they get. Also, try to point out some of the things that big kids can do that babies can’t. This too will help to boost their self-esteem and provide some confidence.
If bringing home your newborn to meet their big brother or sister wasn’t as magical and precious as you thought it would be, don’t be discouraged. Your toddler’s behaviors are natural and will go away with time. As a parent, it is simply your job to be patient, be understanding, and continue to reinforce your love for your toddler. With time and practice eventually, your little tike will be proud to be called a big sibling.