How can we help our two-year-old get used to the idea of having a new baby sister? He whines and cries for Mommy all the time, and lately he's been misbehaving as a way of getting our attention. How can we help him feel loved and secure?
The first thing you need to know is that this is perfectly normal. Since the day you brought him home your older child has been the center of attention in your family. Now a screaming, crying little stranger has suddenly appeared on the scene and upset his world, demanding huge amounts of your time and attention. It's only natural that he feels a bit put out.
There are several strategies you can adopt to help him through this difficult period of adjustment. First, it's going to be important for dad to take an active, involved role with both toddler and baby. When you're nursing or tending the infant, your husband should engage the older child in some kind of fun one-on-one activity, giving the boy his full attention and resisting the urge to throw in the towel if he starts whimpering or calling for Mommy. On the other side of the coin, your husband should give you frequent breaks in the business of changing, rocking, burping, and generally caring for the baby. That will enable you to spend some special time with your toddler each day.
It's worth mentioning that many parents notice some regressive behavior on the part of their toddler after a new baby arrives. For example, the child may try to climb into the infant's crib or suddenly forget his potty training skills. One way to nip this in the bud is to affirm your toddler for his "grown-up" capabilities and point out some of the advantages of being older. You might say something like, "You're such a big boy now! You can go to the park and ride on the swings. The baby is too little to do that." As you're aware, your older child needs to be reassured that he's special and unique. So let him know that you love him and praise him generously when he's helpful or kind toward the baby.
Since you now have two little ones in the house, we'd highly recommend that you get a copy of a wonderful book prepared by Focus on the Family's Physicians Resource Council. It's called the Focus on the Family Complete Book of Baby & Child Care, and you can order it from our online store.
If you'd like to discuss this situation at greater length with a member of our staff, contact our Counseling department for a free consultation.