Adding a newborn to the family when you have a toddler can be both marvelous and overwhelming. I remember sitting in awe of how sweet my almost two-year-old could be with his new brother, excited for the relationship they would share. At the same time, however, I was shocked at how big my toddler now seemed and even a bit sad.
I worried about what I had done to him; was this fair? Shouldn’t he still be the center of my attention? How would he cope with all the new challenges of having a sibling when he was still so little? And a host of other worries, but the exhaustion that comes with parenting two and then three very young children has allowed me to forget many of them.
I can safely say ten years later, those worries were needless. I love the bond my closely spaced kids share, and the intensity of parenting in those early years doesn’t last forever.
6 Tips for Toddlers With New Siblings
Let your toddler hear you tell the baby that he or she has to wait while you are helping the toddler. So frequently, they hear that they must wait while you attend to the baby.
Get a baby doll small enough for your toddler to handle and help your toddler parent explore their baby doll. There will be things your toddler wants to “help” with that are just beyond their ability or that you need to do yourself for sanity’s sake, and that’s okay. A doll can be the perfect redirection when your toddler wants to play or help with the baby in a way that makes you uncomfortable.
Stock your kitchen (or let someone else) with easy-to-grab snacks for the toddler. Having some pre-filled sippy cups and single servings of foods such as granola bars, cheese sticks, crackers, and the like will give you both some grace when you can’t get to make a meal in a timely fashion, and you know that your toddler NEEDS to eat.
Go ahead and watch a movie. If the only activity you can muster with your toddler is sitting on the couch together, don’t beat yourself up. Lean into the moment and watch a movie you can both enjoy. You can still make it a chance to connect by talking to your toddler about the movie and how much you enjoy their company.
Help your child burn off some of that toddler energy by teaching them some movement songs like The Hokey Pokey, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Where is Thumbkin. Eventually, you can rest on the couch with the baby and sing for them while they do the movements.
Remember, adding a new little one to your family is a big adjustment. It’s more than okay to meet your own needs when you finally set the baby down, whether you need a shower, a snack, or 20 minutes to read a chapter of your book, whatever fills your cup. Sometimes, you have to put your oxygen mask on first. You will be better able to help your toddler weather the slings and arrows of this new phase in life if you are not running on empty.
Helpful Books for Toddlers with New Siblings:
- Little Miss, Big Sis by Amy Krouse Rosenthal – a sweet story of a little girl becoming a big sister. The text is short, simple, and rhyming, so it works well for young listeners.
- The New Baby – Mercer Mayer’s familiar Little Critter has a new baby sister, and he gets to learn how he can help his mom and dad and what the baby will be like. Helps give kids realistic expectations of what it’s like to have a new baby in the family.
- Baby on the Way by William and Mathr Sears – Great book for toddlers and preschoolers who want to know more about pregnancy, birth, and the new baby. You can easily tailor the amount of information you give using this book.
More resources for keeping your toddler busy when you have a new baby:
About the Author
Alissa is a resilience coach, cartoonist, and advocate for ‘connection, not perfection’. She’s dedicated to helping others find a sense of safety and belonging inside themselves so they can heal, connect, and build authentic, joyful lives.