I am learning as I go, but here are my top ten tips for preparing your toddler for the birth of a new baby.
1. Find age appropriate literature - I spent about an hour in the bookstore choosing this book (pictured above). There are a lot of books out there on this topic. Books are a good conversation starter and if you find one that is appropriate for your child you can refer back to it throughout the pregnancy.
2. Show your child photographs of themselves as baby - Young children love to look at photos of themselves and this can help them understand the needs and habits of a new baby. Make the photos accessible in a small photo book or album so the child can look at them as often as they choose.
3. Make changes gradually - Prepare your home slowly and gradually so there are not any surprises. My son is sensitive to change so we set up the cot, change table, washed clothes and nappies, installed the car seat over a series of weekends. This gave him time to adjust to each change.
4. Involve your child in the process - Let your child make a genuine contribution in preparing for the baby, let them help set up the baby's room, pick out new clothes/sheets/toys.
5. Let them play - Your child may wish to play baby or want to play with the baby toys, play in the cot or baby bath. We have indulged our son only to find that he tired of it really quickly.
6. Practice with a doll or favourite toy - Pretend holding, soothing the baby, changing nappies etc with a doll or favourite toy. This is fun and it may help your child to help you once the baby arrives.
7. Keep the talk positive - Don't over do it but ensure your talk about the new baby is positive and light-hearted. Make preparing for the baby a positive experience.
8. Share the news - Ensure your child's caregivers/teachers know you are expecting - don't assume they know or have guessed (some people won't ask) and initially it may not be obvious. This can prepare them for when your child starts to talk about the baby.
9. Talk about the birth - At the very least inform them of the basics, let them know where the baby is going to be born, who will care for them or if they are going to stay with someone else. As we want our son present during the birth we have made him familiar and comfortable with our doctor and hospital.
10. Make other preparations as necessary - Ensure your child is as independent as possible and any changes have been made early. If your child is comfortable and feels included - the transition to big brother/sister can only be that much more joyous.
For readers not aware, we are expecting our second child in April 2011. If you have any tips please feel free to leave a comment or as always - email me.