Friday, October 28, 2016

15 Tips on preparing your toddler to be an elder sibling:

Inspite of a crazy pregnancy with multiple hospitalizations towards the end, and an infant who nurses 7-9 hours a day, every single day, my son has adapted to all the changes in his life surprisingly well. He adores his little sister and looks for every opportunity to cuddle her, he often tells me he thinks she's getting hungry and needs a feed and even helps out with her diaper changes, bath time , and entertainment.  I did my best to prepare him for the baby before hand and continue to strive to make sure he knows just how important he is to me and every body around. Below are some ways to prepare your little ones for their new roles as elder siblings. 

nothing more heart warming...

15 Tips on preparing your toddler to be an older sibling: 

1. Their baby: sorry moms, as much as you may hate it when anyone refers to your baby as theirs, in this instance it's necessary. Tell your toddler that he or she is your baby but the little one inside you is their baby. I would constantly refer to my bulging belly as "riaan's baby" or "riaan's baby sister", and to date he says he's mama's baby but Kiara, my little one, is his baby. And honestly, it's adorable but also empowers him and makes him feel a part of the journey. 

2. Keep them involved: it's important to make your little one feel a part of the pregnancy and the earlier you feel able to tell them the better. Some parents worry about telling their children before the 3 month mark as kids are not really able to keep secrets and often we don't want others to know until we are out of the "danger zone," so take your time but do tell them before you announce it as you don't want them to hear that they are going to be an elder sibling, or that mommy is carrying a baby, from anyone else. 

3. Doctors appointments and supporting roles: part of keeping them in the loop is taking them to appointments when possible or even to an ultrasound. I didn't intentionally take my son to an ultrasound - though I had shown him pictures all along - he did however come to the hospital during visiting hours and see my undergoing an ultrasound, and was absolutely fascinated. Infact he asked to see his sister through the computer several times after that, and it really helped make him feel a part of the process. I also had him hold my hand and help with  my daily progesterone injections that I had to take for months on end, he now thinks he's a little doctor but definitely felt a part of everything. Plus he enjoyed the one one on time, and felt like he would get an outing with me whenever I took him out. 

4.  Keep them empowered: make sure they know that they are the big sibling and they have responsibilities, tell them how teju have to be in charge of taking care of the little one as they are 'elder' now.

5. When they were little: as much as they are elder, they were the little ones once too and don't let them forget that. Show them videos, pictures, albums and tell them stories of when they were little and about when they too were in mommy's tummy. It's important that they realize that they too were given the attention that your newborn will get (and honestly, even more than your newborn will get since you already have a toddler to take care of - but that you need not share). 

6. Set up the room/ baby space before hand: you may feel kicks and rolls but it's not easy for a toddler to understand what  changes  are in store for him, so make the necessary changes around the house as early as possible and then explain to them that their little baby is going to occupy these spaces soon ! It will make it more real and less of a shock when there's another baby in the house. 

7 . Use other care takers: while you, like me, may be tempted to make the most of your time with your toddler as an only child and give him all the time and attention you possibly can right now, the withdrawal or reduction of that attention when the baby comes can make your little one feel that the baby took away all the additional attention he or she was getting. So instead, spend time with them like you normally would and also try to get your toddler used to spending time with dad, and grandmom/ grandad/ your siblings. It will come in handy when you need it most ! 

8. Use books: cannot tell you enough how much it helped to have read him so many new baby books.. When my daughter was born my son quoted his big brother book and Said "too little to talk, too little to walk.." They may not put it together till they see the baby, but it will help you eventually. Also, if you know what you are naming the baby, you can point to the pictures and name them after your kids.. A little goes a long long way here! 

seriously, the best book.. our "riaan and kiara" book

9. Prepare them to share: it's not going to be easy for them to share your attention and time overnight but you can prepare them to share other things. Have play dates and teach them that others can use their toys too. Also and more importantly, practice what you preach and share your things with them if they ask you for them. It's cringe worthy when my little boy tries on my jewelry cause i don't want him to break anything, but at the same time if I don't show him I can share, he will never learn. ( plus you can distract him quickly and get your things back). 

10. Talk to your toddler as often as possible: atleast fault.  Explain to them that you will be in hospital, that babies cry, that they will have to share their space and things, but also that they will be a part of everything and are special to you and that you adore them. They may not respond in a way you want or even at all - you may not even be sure that they understood you, but do it anyway. It will come back to them and help them when the time comes. 

11. Give in on the small things: now and later, pick your battles. They will be sensing the changes in you - my son realized I wasn't carrying him as much - and so he would sob for me to carry him. I would do it anyway for a couple minutes and then sit with him in my arms. Just listening to what they want and doing it, would diffuse the tantrum, make him calm and make him able to listen to what I needed from him and what I had to say. Plus, there's no such thing as too many cuddles. 
12. Give them some space: my son loves to do activities with me and I would spend all afternoon post work everyday planning and doing structured activities with him. But I realized, out of exhaustion, that if I step back he will entertain himself and keep himself busy whether it's parking cars of pretending to make me food. Not only is pretend play really good for them but it's also good for them to be able to play by themselves and keep themselves busy. So hang around but hang back (like you would have to when your sitting in the room and nursing a baby), and you will see how your baby lets his or her imagination keep them busy. 

13. Sleep: the last thing you need is for two kids to be up together at night on top of you - trust me on this one cause I have the whole household on top of me right now (my son was sleeping through the night in his own room towards the middle of my pregnancy but due to my multiple hospitalizations and bed rest he now wakes up at night to make sure I'm not going anywhere).  So sleep train (tips here) and do what you can to get your elder one to rest because it will give you more rest when the baby comes. 

14. Potty training: if your child is the right age to potty train, do it. They often get thrown off with changes around the house so if this is well established before, it is more likely to stick after. (Tips on how will follow soon). Plus, you're going to be spending a ton more on diapers and wipes - you may as well save where you can. 

15. Hold on tight: your older one will suddenly seem grown to up when you are back from the hospital and realize that he or she is now the bigger baby. Their hands, feet and personality will all seem bigger than it was before, making you realize that everything has changed all over again, for you too. So cuddle, kiss, and hold your little one for as long as you can...your arms will soon be too full to squeeze that tight. 
my last ever bump-fie

Much more to come!xx 
- TKV 

p.s. forgive my typos & the strange and annoying formatting (I've been struggling to fix it but oh well .. priorities!), have reverted to writing on my phone (on airplane mode ofcourse) while nursing...

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