Helping your toddler cope with a new baby

Top tips on ensuring your older child gets used to having a new sibling without too many tantrums...

This week, little Prince George, who isn't even two yet, is suddenly having to get used to a whole new reality. After being an only child until now, and having the full attention of his parents the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, he now has to share them with his new baby sister - Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.

It's something that many children have to deal with, and as parents it can be a challenging time. Joanne Mallon, author of Toddlers: An Instruction Manual has some great tips for helping the transition. "The arrival of a new brother or sister, whilst welcome, will also rock your toddler’s world," she says. "It would be unusual if they didn’t respond to that change in some way."

According to Joanne, some of the reactions you may see in your child include:

  • Increased clinginess
  • Regression in potty training
  • More tantrums
  • Fussiness over food
  • Night waking

"Basically, brace yourself for uber-toddler, with all the tough stuff ramped up to the max," she says. "You may also find that reactions like these start to happen during your pregnancy, as toddlers are very quick to spot that your attention isn’t 100% on them."

But why do toddlers start behaving like this, when they have a new sibling arrive on the scene? Joanne says it's all about asserting your child’s claim on your undivided attention, and reinforcing their genuinely held belief that it really is all about them – which is why, ultimately, one of the best lessons having a sibling teaches a child is that the world does not revolve around them, and that other people’s needs deserve consideration too."

So what's the best way to handle these sort of reactions? Joanne suggests staying calm, not rising to them and not 'rewarding' them with your attention. "They’re normal, and they’ll pass," she says. "As much as you can, take time alone with your toddler giving one to one attention; perhaps when your newborn is asleep. Yes this will be a challenge since you’ll probably be feeling exhausted, but even a little will make a difference. Point out all the things your toddler can do that the baby can’t, and give lots of praise for everything your toddler achieves. Try not to worry if it’s a struggle. Remember that life is not going back to ‘normal’ – you’re working towards finding a new normal, with your expanded family."

Most of all, try to see the positives in your new family arrangement. "Don’t assume that introducing a new sibling will inevitably mean trouble, because it will mean a lot of joy as well," says Joanne.

Have you struggled to get your toddler used to having a younger sibling? What did you find the hardest? For more advice, buy Joanne Mallon's book Toddlers: An Instruction Manual, £7.99

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