Now that your pregnant again one of your main concerns may be first born jealousy. How do you make your home ready for another child without making your first born jealous? That is what this article will help you with.
Making your first born an active part of baby’s life is an important step. So when you find out you are pregnant again getting your toddler involved is a great way to help him/her form a bond to baby before the birth. Jealousy in first born children usually comes from them feeling as if they are less important than baby or that baby is keeping them from doing things. If you keep your toddler busy and active in baby’s life there won’t be as much jealousy and resentment. Of course there will be some, as when baby is feeding and there is nothing for your first born to do, but I will get into that a little later. The thing to keep in mind is that even parents can become somewhat jealous of the attention baby gets, your first born is no different.
Here are a few ways you can get your toddler involved with the new baby:
Ask your toddler his/her opinion on small things such as a patterns for baby’s nursery. Give them small choices, obviously they will not be able to plan the whole design of baby’s room but, if you narrow the choice down to two designs and let your toddler pick the final one they will feel involved. You can also have your toddler help pick out furniture after you have narrowed it down. Having your little one pick out books for baby’ is another great way to keep toddler involved. Take your toddler shopping with you when you pick out clothes for baby. Let them pick a special outfit just from them for baby. You can teach your toddler to help change diapers by getting a baby doll to practice on. No one expects toddler to change a diaper by themselves but they do like to help, even if it is just throwing the diaper away. Let your toddler pick out a special toy for baby that he/she can give to baby. If your child is a little older you can also let them help you wash all of the new items that will go in baby’s room. Let them put the clothes or blankets in the washing machine. This is good even for younger children. My daughter was helping me with the laundry when she was 2 years old and she loved it because she was, “Such a good little helper!”. Take your toddler to your OBGYN visits and let him/her hear baby’s heart beat and see baby on the monitor. This will help establish a bond with baby. Also teach your toddler how to help bathe baby.
Remember to praise your first born for all the ‘hard work’ they are doing to help Mommy and Daddy get the home ready for baby. Try to avoid telling them that they are “too little” to help. This can make them feel inadequate and can cause resentful feelings towards baby. Another thing to keep in mind is that your first born has had all your attention since birth. Having to share time while baby is awake or be a little more quiet while baby is sleeping can be hard on a child who has never had to deal with that. So start helping your toddler adjust by setting aside a little time where your toddler must entertain themselves. Start with 15 minutes where toddler must find something to do. Then slowly increase the time to 30 minutes, then 30 minutes two or three times a day. Help your toddler learn to find something constructive to do during that time such as getting out a book, coloring, playing a game, or looking at family pictures. You can also take your toddler outside to play during this time. Actively ignore your toddler during this time. Active ignoring is a procedure commonly used in institutional settings to help clients gain independence. It isn’t as bad as it sounds and obviously I am not suggesting that you turn your home into some sort of institution. What active ignoring is, is when you are present and keeping an eye on your toddler but not participating in the activities. It is not neglecting toddler but establishing to toddler that sometimes Mommy or Daddy cannot play but that they are still right there if they need them. This “alone” time will also help you toddlers imagination grow as they will have to entertain themselves. If toddler has something urgent such as having to use the restroom, obviously take the time then and of course need I even mention if toddler has an emergency, take the time. But for small things such as wanting you to participate or ‘needing’ something that they don’t actually need right at that moment, actively ignore them. However, try to avoid saying things like, “Mommy is too busy right now” or “Daddy doesn’t have time” or if baby has been born, “I’m busy with the baby” or “You know I can’t because of the baby”. You toddler is not dumb so explain to them that you have something you are working on right now but if they can wait just a little bit then you will be more than happy to help them/play with them. This helps to keep them from feeling like they are less important than whatever it is you are doing. It also helps to teach patience and keeps toddler from resenting baby’s time.
Many of us say to the siblings that they are getting a new brother or sister to play with but this isn’t always healthy to do. When you stop and think about it your toddler sees playing as things like catch, and tag, hide-n-go-seek, toddler toss (throwing toddler up and catching him/her), and coloring, etcetera. Obviously baby cannot play like that. If you tell your toddler that they will have a new baby to play with what happens when baby comes and they try to play with baby like they know how to play? That’s right, you find yourself always having to say “no”, “don’t”, “stop”, “be careful”, and things of that nature. Toddler will become confused because basically you are reprogramming what playing means to them. Also those are all negative words. As I mentioned, toddlers are not dumb by any means so take the time to explain to your first born what playing with baby entails. That babies like back rubs, you can use your diaper training doll to show and teach toddler how to rub baby’s back without hurting baby. Show them how to play with baby’s toys to interact with baby. Teach them how to feed baby (if a bottle is the choice you have to use). Let them know that baby won’t be able to play like they can until he/she is older like them.
Letting them know that baby cannot do the things they can is another way to get your toddler involved. Teach your child that they are the person baby will look up to and learn from. That baby cannot walk yet but when it comes time for baby to walk that they can help them since they already know how to do it. This will make toddler feel that they are also important to baby. Including them in baby’s life gives your first born an important role to play and can start teaching responsibility to your toddler. Everyone likes to feel like someone needs them and a new baby is a great way to let toddler know that other people need them. Mommy and Daddy need their help and baby needs their help.
A lot of “child experts” say to give your first born “extra love” but I say that any good parent will already be giving their first born all the love they have and then some. I disagree that “extra love” is a positive thing. You want to keep your child’s life as normal as possible to keep from resentful feelings towards baby. Making time just for your first born will be easier to plan when baby arrives and you get some semblance of a schedule going. Then you can have some one on one time while baby is napping.
Keep toddler involved with baby as much as possible and soon as baby grows so will your toddlers love for the baby. Before your toddler knows it baby will be chasing them around the house playing tag, catch, and hide-n-go-seek.