With Millie’s arrival just 2 months away, the excitement in the house is palpable! While you can never be fully prepared for a child (NO KIDDING, ADDIE!), there are ways we can try. For adults it’s parenting classes, and books and groups… and for the toddlers in our lives, there’s these 5 tricks:
1. Tummy time
Bet you thought tummy time ended at some point? This time, it’s for you! Each day, take some time with your child to watch your soon-to-be kick, feel them, talk to them- whatever! As your body changes, talk about it- “mommy’s tummy is so big because your baby brother/sister is growing big, too!” Look at pictures of when you were pregnant with your current child(ren), and use the time to bond- often daddy gets in on the time and we all watch and giggle as my Millie dances in response to all the touch and talk, and all the attention on mama and baby! It’s pretty darn cool- especially when Addie helps put lotion on my belly!
We have taken out a lot of books about being a big sister, waiting for baby, about bringing baby home- you name it. I let our library lead us, walking in and asking what books they have about being a big sibling. I got about 15 choices off the bat and we looked through them all and have taken a lot out in different trips. Addie loves reading about babies and telling me about how they cry, but it’s ok, and she pretends to soothe her dolls and put them to sleep… all things that I feel will make her not only prepared to help, but not be alarmed when Millie cries for things.
We’re also very lucky that our hospital offers a sibling class! Addie will take a class (with us there) where she will learn about babies, get a t-shirt and see the place where Millie will be born- and the class is about 1/8 of the price and time of adult classes! How cool!
3. Let the chores begin… NOW!
I keep reading that when another baby comes along, we, as parents, often want our older kids to do things that (maybe) we didn’t expect them to do before. So… I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would need Addie to do for herself if my hands were full or if I was just caught up at the moment and asked her to do them for herself before Millie comes- I hope this will help her not feel like it’s because of, but rather in preparation for, being a big sister. I’ve asked her to get the book she wants to read, grab me a diaper for changing, master the stairs, carry her own “wants” out of the house- like Elmo or her water bottle, open the drawer in the fridge where her snacks are (cheese, already washed fruit and prepped cups of milk), find her coloring books and crayons, throw her own trash away… Obviously, the age of your child determines these activities! While most of the time I can help with these tasks now, I make a point not to- which has taught her to say, “no mama, you do it.” It’s a little struggle, but adding the phrase, “But you’re such a big girl! Show me how you do it!” has worked wonders!
4. Talk it up… but be honest
Being a big sister is awesome- I know because I have some pretty amazing younger siblings- but it’s also overwhelming for everyone. Babies cry. Babies puke. Babies smell sour (sometimes). Babies love water. Babies hate baths. Babies are awake all the time, but somehow also always sleeping. And… well… babies are kind of boring. So while being a big sister is a BIG responsibility for Addie- to love, help care for- it’s also a time that may confuse and upset her. Dave and I often hear babies cry when we’re out with Addie and when she points it out and starts to sympathy whine, we are quick to remind her that babies do cry a lot and maybe that baby needs a big sister to make them laugh. This usually makes her smile and try to look and find where the crying baby is. She’s great with gentle hands, but is a bit much on the personal space- and loves to kiss… everyone. So again, we’re honest and remind her that loving on babies is so nice, but we need to stop when mommy or daddy says. Being open about bringing a baby home (you won’t have a new playmate for a few months) while still exciting is sometimes confusing for everyone (Yay, new baby! Yay, no sleep?)- but it can be done. And if all else fails, you’ll have a toddler who says things like, “Babies are small. Yeah. And they crying.” …to total strangers. Parents-0 Logic of a toddler-1
5. Carve time out for just you and your other child(ren)
When other kids come along, time alone (hello shower, it’s been a while since we’ve been alone in the same room together) is hard to come by any time of day- not to mention the prospect of actually scheduling something, but, like doctors appointments we would never miss, planning specific time to be one-on-one with your other child(ren) is important- for them and you! For weekends- when Dave is home- we plan on taking Addie on small trips so that we can both get time with her and I can still nurse. Making a list of things to do together with Millie, individual with Addie, with both of us and Addie, and with just Millie are all things to consider… oh yeah, and us alone!
Suggestions? Neighborhood events, naptime stories, library activities (where other parents can help you out) and family outings close to home- so if one child needs to leave, coming back to pick up the other parent/child is simple are all on our radar. While being apart isn’t the goal, focusing on age-specific activities, as well as bonding time with baby are important. For us, making a schedule so we know our options, but also being comfortable that things may not work out is key. For this reason, we aren’t planning anything where we need to buy tickets or talking about big activities until we’re ready to go (who wants to disappoint about a trip to the zoo that can’t happen?).
And us? We have neither the money nor desire to go out, but Dave and I love having dates at home. A nice glass of wine and a movie in bed where we talk through the whole thing about different things he’s read and what our next house will have… that’s the perfect night- and we always find time for those.
For more ideas, check out this spread sheet of what we will be doing (the first 3 months) and make your own version to help you plan for the whole family! While grocery trips, Addie’s classes and even peeing would be more fun to do alone, sometimes Millie will have to come along for the ride (and I’ll just have to have an audience).
How did you prepare your children for a new arrival?