One of the most frequent questions that I get is how we made Aria’s transition from only child to sibling as smooth as we possibly could. There definitely isn’t one perfect way on how to prepare your toddler for a sibling but the few changes and activities that we did here and there definitely made a massive difference and I have been amazed at how quickly she took on the big sister role and how immense her love for little Maia is.
I think there are a few things that counted in our favour in terms of Aria’s personality and day to day activities; the first being that she was already at school 3 mornings a week. This really helped as it meant that when baby came, there was still a very strong sense of routine and schedule in Aria’s life, something that she thrives on. Since then we have actually upped her school days to 5 full days (8am-4pm) a week and she has thrived! Our main reason behind this was so that I could finish all of my work during the day, leaving me the evening and weekends (mostly) to spend quality, uninterrupted time with Aria. Quality time trumps quantity of time in my books.
In the same vein, the fact that Aria has always been really good at independent play was an absolute life saver. We put independent play into practice with both of our girls from a very early age and it has served us so well. It meant that I can get one changed or wash dishes or do a bit of work while they play happily with whichever toy is the favourite of the day.
The third thing that definitely made things a lot easier is that Aria is naturally very nurturing and loving. She loves to make people feel happy and loved, she also thrives on being given some responsibility and so we used both of these personality traits to our advantage which I will speak about a little bit later in this post.
Now don’t fret if your tot doesn’t display any of these personality traits, every kiddo is different and the tips on how to prepare your toddler for a sibling, that I’m going to share with you aren’t dependant on a specific personality. So without further ado, let’s get into it!
- Be mindful of the nicknames you call your toddler: We have always called Aria “my baby” or “baby girl” but when we started prepping her for Maia’s arrival we tried our best to replace those phases with “my big girl” or something similar. This really helps them to start to process their new role in the family; that they are no longer the baby, but rather the older sibling. It’s really tough to do, basically breaking a habit but it definitely helps! Now that Maia has been here for a decent amount of time, I switch between “my baby” and “big girl” for Aria, and a lot of the time she will correct me and say that she isn’t a baby.
- Get them a doll and start to practice having a baby around: This tip was given to us by a psychologist and although it takes a fair amount of effort (which let’s be honest, you don’t really have when you’re preggers), it works like a bomb and prepares your toddler for what their new normal will be like. It is also a great way to gauge what they are most interested in so that you know which bits of caring for baby you can involve them in.
- Let them know how things might change and give them age appropriate responsibilities: Before Maia arrived we prepped Aria for what lay ahead. We explained to her that babies sometimes cry a lot and would she like to help mommy and daddy when that happens? 99% of the time she would say yes, and then we would explain what her responsibility would be. So for example, when they bathed, Aria washes Maia’s feet; this was such a massive highlight for her, and still is to this day. Aria loves knowing that she is helping and looking after her baby sister. Sure, there are days when she doesn’t really want to have anything to do with Maia but 9 times out of 10 she is all too keen to get involved.
- Carve out special time for your toddler once baby arrives: This has made such a big difference and makes Aria feel so special, and it doesn’t have to be a massive outing. For us its going grocery shopping together, and then Aria and Dan have an outing out together once a month or so as well. Aria feels so appreciated after this special time together, it’s honestly one of the most important things that you can do once baby arrives.
- Have a gift “from baby” to your toddler when they meet for the first time: We did this and it was a hit! You can read more about Maia’s birth in my fresh 48 post, but I am so glad that we went through with this plan. We also let Aria choose something to give to Maia which she absolutely loved doing.
- Praise your toddler: This is something we still do all the time, we encourage Aria to be a good big sister and when she does something really kind we make a point of praising her behaviour. This makes her feel so important and good about herself and it only makes her to want to continue being a good big sister.
Transitioning from one to two kiddos is no easy task, it is exhausting both mentally, physically and emotionally but seeing the relationship develop is so heart warming that it makes it all so so worth it. What tip would you give parents who are expecting their second or even third child?