Do you have a second child on the way? Are you trying to decide whether or not to share your toddler’s bedroom with the new arrival? There are, in fact, many reasons why parents might choose to have their newest baby bunk with an older sibling. When it comes to young toddlers, however, a little resistance is common. So how do you ensure a harmonious relationship between your baby and toddler?
In this week’s article, we’re going to offer some practical tips for easing your toddler into this new situation. Go ahead and take a look.
Preparing for the Transition Early On
Before making the actual transition and asking your older child to share his or her bedroom, try prepare your child for the introduction of his younger sibling, as much as possible. By preparing your older child for the new role of older sibling, in the months prior to birth, you can help him adjust to this considerable change. If you do this, you’ll not only find that you’re older child is more amenable to sharing his room with his new sibling, but will have a better relationship with and less jealousy towards his new sibling overall.
Do whatever you can - in these early stages - to ensure your older child will welcome her new sibling with open arms. A great way to do this is to help develop a relationship between your child and the baby, in the pre-natal period. Talk about your baby with your child beforehand and encourage them to talk to your belly. Have you little one read stories or sing songs to their sibling in your belly. Show them ultrasounds of their sibling and discuss their future role as sibling and protector. By demonstrating that this new baby is a person, and that he or she needs to be cared for and protected, you can instill a feeling of sibling pride and protectiveness in your older child from early on.
Not only that, but try to introduce your new baby’s cot into your toddler’s room a few months in advance. This will help prepare your toddler for the change and will make the transition less disruptive.
For more tips on introducing your older sibling to your new arrival, take a look at our previous articles on this topic: http://umamma.ie/blog/preparing-your-toddler-for-the-new-arrival-part-1/
Explain the Nightly Feeds and Interruptions
In the beginning, your toddler might find the nightly feeds and crying disruptive. Your toddler might get upset, or come looking for you, every time the baby wakes up to cry. After awhile, however, your toddler will get used to it.
At the beginning, explain to your toddler that you’ll be coming in to feed your baby late at night, and that he shouldn’t worry. Also, explain that he doesn’t need to worry if the baby wakes up crying. Explain that you’ll take care of it and that it’s ok if he goes back to sleep. Pretty soon, your toddler will learn to sleep on through those occasional interruptions.
When the baby has arrived, and you’ve begun sharing your toddler’s bedroom with the new arrival, consider this simple technique. If your baby’s bedtime is around 7:30 or so, make your toddler’s a little later, such as 8 or 8:30. This will allow your toddler to feel older and more responsible, and also shown him or her that she’s got her own special role in the family.
In the very early months, of course, you may have no set bedtime for your newborn, which might make things a little more difficult. This technique might be better suited for a few months in, when you’ve established a proper bedtime.
Another issue, of course, might be that you’re reluctant to risk waking your newborn up by going through your toddler’s sleep routine. If this is the case, perhaps do some of your toddler’s sleep routine - such as reading a story, putting on pyjamas, etc - in a separate room, and simply tucking your toddler in quietly.
Instilling Caring & Responsibility
Toddlers are surprisingly receptive to praise and encouragement. And so, by using positive reinforcement, you can help instill a caring and responsible attitude in your toddler. Without overdoing it, praise and celebrate your toddler whenever he acts responsibly towards his younger sibling. Let him know how proud you are of him that he’s sharing his room with his younger sibling, and that he doesn’t cause a fuss or complain when the baby wakes him up, or disrupts his own use of his space.
Encourage your toddler to be respectful of his sleeping sibling, by being quiet around his cot, and closing the door gently behind him when he enters and leaves the room. Your toddler will be happy to get such positive attention and feel more like a ‘grown-up’.
Properly Sharing the Space
One thing you’ll need to consider, before introducing your new arrival into your toddler’s bedroom, is how to baby-proof the bedroom - while still respecting your toddler’s toys and space. You’re going to have to find a safe place - such as a drawer or high-shelf - to put any small toys or other potential hazards, so as to keep them out of your baby’s reach. Similarly, any larger toys or objects that might fall down, or be knocked over, should be moved to another room where your toddler can safely use them, out of reach of your new baby.
It is important, however, that your toddler still feels a certain level of ownership over the space. One great way to do this, is to ask your toddler if he’d like to re-design the space, or give some input on how it looks. You could ask what colour he’d like to re-paint it, or have him choose some new wallpaper, or some other important design element. This will help your toddler know that you still respect his space and give him a sense of ownership over the shared bedroom.