How can I help my toddler adjust to a new sibling?
When there is a change in your family dynamic (like bringing home a new baby), fear and jealousy often will affect the older sibling(s), and even more so in a family where there were just parents and one child before. Your older child needs to be integrated at every opportunity with the new family dynamic. If you reassure him verbally and emotionally that he is still loved and just as important as he always has been and will be, he will feel less threatened by sibling rivalry.
A great activity to understand how he is feeling is to have him draw a picture of his new family. You can gauge his emotions by looking at how he draws the members, paying attention to size, color and placement of each person. While the crayons are out, have him draw a picture as a gift to his new sibling and hang it in the nursery.
Other ideas that can help:
- Allow him to assist in caring for the baby.
- Ask his opinion regarding the sibling.
- Let him make some of the choices, such as picking out an outfit that the baby will wear.
- Let him choose a toy or stuffed animal for the baby.
As in any situation, a parent should build on the child's strengths. Allow him to feel like a valuable member of the team, empower him, let him know that as a special big brother, he is a teacher and role model for his sibling. Teach him how to handle and interact with the baby so he can feel involved, and you can trust that the baby will be safe when he is around. It is also important to carve out time that he can spend alone with you, alone with your partner, as well as a time with both parents together.
The most important thing of all is to empower your child and reassure him that he is an important part of your life and the whole family.