Having one more child makes a big difference for every family member. It can be a difficult time for young children, and especially difficult for toddlers.
Young children do not perceive and have a clear belief that their parents have feelings for them. They may feel less loved when parents spend time with their new baby.
Helping young children feel loved and sure of the feelings they feel from their parents will make things easier for all members.
Talk to young children about your new baby, but not too soon – otherwise they’ll have to wait a long time to see the baby coming!
Young children often behave incorrectly when they are preparing or just born. They may not know how to talk to you about feeling worried and neglected.
You can help your child feel safe and loved through a number of actions. For example, cuddle, laugh, and spend special time with your child.
Before the baby was born
Talk to your kids about your new baby, but not too soon. They do not understand the concept of time in terms of weeks and months, it is a long time for children to wait. Talk to them later in pregnancy when they can understand what’s going on.
If there are big changes to your baby, get your baby to understand before the baby is born. Children will feel less replaced. If your baby moves from crib to bed, make sure he sees this as something special to them – not for you to get a cot for your new baby. Tell your baby what will happen when the baby is born. Get your child involved in a new baby pick up plan if they want to. You can:
Ask your child’s opinion if you are happy and agree with their choice when you are wondering between two baby clothes you both like.
Give your child a doll to be seen as their “baby”. They may want to copy what you are doing for the real baby;
Plan your time in the hospital in advance. Children cope and adapt best when they are at home with someone they know well. For example father, grandparent, or other trusted adult. If your baby has to go somewhere else or stay with someone he doesn’t know, help him get used to it before the baby is born.
Try to relieve your baby of stress while he is about to be born. For example, avoid teaching your child new skills such as using the toilet unless it is obvious that the child wants to learn. Learning to use the toilet is a big skill for young children.
When the mother was in the hospital
Let your baby visit mother and baby as much as possible. Although your baby will cry when he has to leave, it is still better for him to see his mother and know where she is.
Make them feel special when they visit their mother. Tell them how happy you are to meet them. And these may make more sense for the baby if the mother does not hold or feed the baby during the visit;
Take pictures of the child with the baby, show them the pictures and say this is their family, and this is a special occasion;
Give the baby the mother’s objects to remember when she is not at home. For example, the favorite scarf or handbag. This helps the baby understand that the mother will come back. Children may enjoy keeping a picture of their mother;
Give the child “a gift from the baby”. They may also want to choose a gift for the baby.
If the baby is unable to visit the mother, the phone call also works well.
Help your child feel safe.
Make sure your baby knows you will still love him when he or she is born.
When the baby comes home
A change in the child’s behavior when a baby comes home even when well prepared is expected. The whole family will need time to get used to having one more baby in the family. Try to set aside time each day with your child if you can. You may need to have a babysitter look after the baby while you do this.
Children can behave like when they are young, for example, want to suck a bottle, want you to dress them, need to learn skills to use the toilet. Let your child do this for a while and leave no comments or opinions. This will help your child feel better sooner.
Children may show other signs of stress such as nagging, for example when you feed your baby. Let them know you understand their feelings. Say, “I know you feel sad when you feed your baby and you want to play with her. I also want to play with you”.
Have special activities with your baby while feeding your baby, for example, reading a book together or watching a special DVD, telling children stories when they were babies. Some children like to have a doll so they can “feed” as well.
Read books about babies to them, showing them both the joys and worries of having a new baby.
Show your baby how to gently touch the baby. You are there to make sure your baby is safe. If a child hits the baby, keep the baby away from the baby. Tell your child “we are angry but we are not hitting the baby”. Also do not let your child hit you. Teach your child that hitting others is not the way to show anger.
Some parents remember the relationship they had with their child before a new baby was born. Recognize these feelings and give yourself time to adapt. This can help you learn more about how your child feels.
A change in the child’s behavior when a baby comes home even when well prepared is expected. The whole family will need time to get used to having one more baby in the family. Try to set aside time each day with your child if you can.