It’s exciting when you have another child on the way, but if you have older children, it’s quite common for them to become jealous or confused, particularly if they are used to being the only child in the family.
Because they are so young themselves, it’s difficult for them to vocalise or articulate their feelings. Instead, they may react in ways such as:
- Having tantrums, or expressing disruptive and attention seeking behaviour
- Reverting to ‘babyish’ behaviour themselves – such as a reluctance to use their potty despite being potty trained, or mimicking a baby’s cry
- Aggressive behaviour towards you or the baby. Make sure you supervise your toddler around your new baby at all times, as they will not yet be able to understand that their aggressive behaviour can hurt the baby
- They may become quiet and withdrawn
The good news is that these reactions won’t last forever, some children just need a helping hand from you to understand what’s happening and to have the reassurance that they are still equally loved.
Here are some tips.
Allow them to be an active member of your new child’s life from the beginning
Once your bump is growing, explain to your toddler that they have a younger sibling on the way. It’s always best for them to hear this from you first, and for you to be open and honest about what it means for them and the rest of the family.
To explain this, it might help to show them the scans of your baby growing or pictures of your toddler when they were a baby. There are plenty of children’s books available about welcoming a new baby into the home and becoming a big brother or sister too.
You can get them involved by encouraging them to talk and sing to your bump, involving them in conversations about the name of the new baby, or in shopping for their new siblings’ clothes. By getting a room ready for your new arrival in advance, you’ll help your child to understand that the baby will be in the home soon.
You can even help them to buy a small present for their younger brother or sister that they can bring with them to the hospital when they first meet.
Spend time with them too
Once your baby arrives, they will require lots of attention. It’s a good idea to be honest with your toddler that this will be the case, but that you still love them and will make time for them. Children’s books can help to explain the situation to them.
Keep their needs in mind and spend some quality time with them whenever you can, for example by playing or reading together. Remember that maintaining a routine for your toddler for things like sleeping, eating and playtime can promote wellbeing and a sense of security, so don’t deviate from this. New toys and books might help them to feel more stimulated during this time too.
It’s ok to ask your family or friends for support as a parent. Perhaps they could take your toddler out on a trip, or look after your baby whilst you spend some quality time with them.
You can also remind all visitors to give your toddler attention as well as the new baby. They could greet your toddler first when they come through the door and ask them to show them their new baby brother or sister.
For more tips, take a look at this video:
This video was not produced by Health for Under 5’s and may contain adverts.