When I was writing posts for my "From One To Two" series, I got questions from several people asking whether I had any tips for helping your toddler with the transition after having a new baby. However, this was one subject I felt I didn't really have any good tips on! Wyatt adjusted pretty easily after we had Gwen, and there weren't a lot of difficulties that would give me a good basis for advice.
As I neared the end of my second pregnancy in the summer of 2012, I had several friends tell me stories about their first-born children struggling with the arrival of their second child. Most of these tales involved toddlers who became angry and defiant toward their mothers. Given that our then 2-year-old, Krewson, was a HUGE Daddy’s boy and gave me very little attention anyways if Daddy was around, I figured things couldn’t get much worse and that there would be no reason for him to lash out at me for bringing home a baby. I listened to their stories, put them in a “could possibly happen but probably won’t” box in the back of my brain, and excitedly prepped for the arrival of our second son.
Our second child, Greyden, was born on July 28th, 2012. I was so excited for Krew to come meet Grey at the hospital, but the encounter was far less exciting than I had hoped. Krew looked at the baby, sort of half-smiled like what in the world is that thing and what is going on, carelessly dropped the ball we’d purchased for him to give as a gift on top of Grey, then proceeded to run around the hospital room playing with all the relatives, never giving his new little brother a second glance.
We arrived home as a family a couple days later, and it became obvious fairly quickly that Krew was not overly excited about having a new sibling. He showed absolutely no interest in the baby and strongly disliked the crying. My husband (Dave) and relatives showered Krew with attention while I tended to Greyden, which seemed like the best thing to do, but before long it started to backfire.
For some reason that I’ll never understand, Krew started to avoid me and lash out at me, just as I had heard others relate. It absolutely broke my heart. He didn’t want to be in the same room as me, and flat out said so. He wouldn’t let me touch him or hug him. He would push on me and tell me to go away. He would gleefully run to anyone else, especially his daddy, but gave me a cold shoulder almost every time I initiated conversation or contact.
I cried and cried and cried, wondered what I had done to my child that he would hate me so much, questioned how I’d ever thought it would be ok to bring another child into our home. I felt like I’d ruined Krew’s life and mine. It was a difficult experience in the midst of dealing with a newborn and all the raging hormones and life changes that go along with that.
I’ll never forget the day that marked the turning point in those struggles with Krew. Dave had to leave for ultimate frisbee practice for the day, and so Krew had to stay home with me and the baby by ourselves for the first time. As Dave was leaving, Krew was hysterical crying. I yelled to Dave, “Lock the door!” because I knew Krew would try to run out the door after him as he left. Sure enough, as soon as Dave was gone, Krew hung by the front door, sobbing, pounding on the door screaming, “Daddy come home!! Daddy come home!!” I sat in the living room, nursing Greyden, tears of hurt and betrayal and uncertainty pouring down my face. At one point Krew’s screaming stopped, and he came walking into the living room. He took one look at me, turned around, ran back to the front door, and started sobbing and yelling and pounding all over again.
After 10 to 15 minutes, Krew realized his daddy wasn’t coming back and came whimpering into the living room. I asked, “Do you want me to hold you?” He answered, “Yes.” I put Greyden down on the floor and pulled Krew into my lap, and as I did he angrily kicked the Boppy I had been using to nurse Grey. Then he curled up in a ball in my arms and cried and cried and cried.
It was an incredibly emotional day, but we had a breakthrough. Once the tears ended, a wall had been knocked down. Krew started acting like my little boy again. That night I laid in his bed with him for a while, and he reached over and grabbed my arm and pulled it around his little body. I cried silent tears of relief and thanksgiving and thanked God for that moment a million times over.
I’m writing this blog post because Callie asked me to share my tips on helping a toddler transition to having a new baby in the house. I felt that it was important to share my story first so that you understand where I’m coming from. Our transition was anything but easy, and one of the most painful times in my parenting experience so far. But I do feel that I can provide some helpful advice as a result.
1) Make sure both parents are spending equal amounts of time with the toddler.
In most cases, as in ours, I would assume that the dad tends to spend a lot more time with the toddler than the mother. But I can imagine there are situations where it is reversed. Whatever the case, just make sure the toddler is getting an equal amount of attention from both parents. If one parent gives a lot more attention to the toddler and the other gives a lot more attention to the baby, this sets up the parent with the baby to be the bad guy. Not a good at all.
2) Make sure this time with the toddler is QUALITY time.
When parents are spending their time with the toddler (#1), make sure a good chunk of this is fun quality time. Do things the toddler wants to do. Read a book, play a game, go outside, run in circles through the house, have a tickle fight, whatever. Just make sure you are doing activities that bring your toddler joy. Forget the housework and to-do list for a bit and instead focus on bonding with your child and reassuring him that life is still ok.
3) When relatives offer to take the toddler to give you a break, ask them to take the newborn instead.
This is counter-intuitive, but it’s very important. Your toddler needs moments where he feels like he still has his old life. He needs time with his parents, time to be the center of their attention. Although he will enjoy attention from relatives, this won’t help at all to reassure him that his parents are still as devoted to him as they were prior to the new baby. So hand off the new baby, not the toddler.
4) Do not allow aggressive or defiant behavior.
Maintain your rules and your methods of discipline. When Krew pushed me or spoke rudely, he received the same reprimanding that he would have received prior to Greyden being born. This does two things. First, it prevents any defiant or aggressive behavior from becoming acceptable and habitual in the toddler’s head. Second, it maintains consistency in the toddler’s life. The same behaviors that were unacceptable prior to the new baby are still unacceptable after the baby.
5) Allow non-defiant regression.
Krew wanted to suck on a pacifier, lay in the baby’s crib, and lay on the changing table. All things he hadn’t done for quite a while. But we let him. I’d read about this type of regressive behavior, and I’d read to just go along with it. We did, and it all passed fairly quickly.
6) Try having your toddler “help” with the baby, but don’t get your hopes up.
Prior to Greyden being born, I had read that it was good to have your toddler help with the new baby in order to keep him feeling involved. I tried this, and it didn’t work. I would ask Krew if he wanted to help with little thing (baths, getting me a pacifier, talking to the baby, etc.) and 9 times out of 10 the answer was NO. We didn’t push it, and I really think it was the best choice. No sense in making him see the baby as even more of a hindrance on his life than he already did.
7) Pray for your toddler and for yourselves.
I wish I had done more of this. Pray for your toddler, and pray for you and your spouse as parents. Pray that God direct you in the best way to handle your situation. Every family’s situation is unique and will need a slightly (or drastically) different approach. Pray that God help you find it. Also pray that God take away any fears, anxieties, or hurts in your toddler’s heart. He knows better than anyone what is going on inside that little toddler’s soul, and He can help you better than any book, article, or blog post.
8) Be patient.
If you do end up with a struggling toddler, healing and adjustment to the transition will take time. You must be patient. I have heard of toddler acting up for months when a new baby arrives. MONTHS. Thank the Lord this did not happen for us (our biggest struggle was just for a couple weeks), but it does happen. You have to be strong and have faith that this too shall pass. Maintain your consistency, follow the steps above, and wait. It’s hard but necessary.
9) Finally, give yourself grace.
I hate to break it to you, but you’re going to mess up this thing called parenting. You already have, I already have. We’re fallen adults trying to raise fallen children in a fallen world. We cannot ever know how to best handle every parenting situation, and even if we did know, I don’t think we’d have the willpower or strength to follow through with it. Learn to rely on your Father to guide you. Extend yourself grace for your messups just as you know He does. He gave you your children, and He’s there to help you raise them. Listen for His voice and follow His direction. You’ll make it through.
Now, Greyden at 18 months and Krew at almost 4.
shopping! When all you've ever had to do is get one baby in and out of a store, it can be scary to think about handling two.
Nevermind, Taara just posted this week about how she handles four kids on the go, including twins - go check it out!
Recently Alex asked me what I would recommend purchasing for a second baby, and I realized I have gotten a lot of questions over the last year about the transition to two kids, but I've never written any posts about it! So I'm starting a little mini series on the transition to two kids.
Of course the balancing act is going to a whole other level soon with Baby #3 coming, so maybe once I figure things out after this little one makes his/her appearance I'll do a post on having three kids as well. But for now, my tips on going from one to two.
First of all - what do you need for two kids?
It can be a little tricky to know what to purchase for the second baby when you got so much of what you needed for the first. What do you really need more of? What extras will you need now that you will be handling two kids instead of one?
I think the answers vary a lot by family, lifestyle, what exactly you already have, and whether you are having the same gender as your first or not. If you are having the opposite gender the second time around, the list is obviously going to be much longer. But in general, you are not going to need a whole lot of extras for the second baby. Here are a few tips for buying for Baby #2 (or #3).
A Few Things To Think About
1. Go through your stuff and see what you have that is worn out. For us, this was swaddling blankets, burp clothes, and bottles. These items had a lot of wear by the time Wyatt was done with them, so I decided to get new ones. And it's just nice to have some fresh things for the new baby.
2. Think about how old your first child(ren) will be when the next one comes and go from there. Whether you need to make some of the big purchases again - ex. crib, car seat, stroller - is going to depend a lot on how far apart your kids will be.
3. Get things that you wanted to try with your first baby but never did. These will probably mostly be little items, but here's your chance! For me, it was those SwaddleMe blankets. I bought a couple to try with Gwen, and I loved them! It was fun to try something new. For the next baby, I want some sort of cute teething toy (like Sophie the Giraffe), or pacifier toy (like a Wubbanub). Just because I think they are cute. I also think a carseat blanket/cover would be nice, instead of draping a blanket over the carseat all the time (but I might just try to make one of those). Just to give you some examples. Give some new items a go!
A Few Specific Items
1. Get a good baby carrier. If you don't already have one, now is the time to get one.
2. Double Stroller? For strollers, I say if your kids are going to be close to two years apart or more, you can probably get away with not purchasing a double (unless it's in your budget and you just want one). You can carry your youngest in a carrier and put the oldest in a regular stroller until baby gets older, and by the time you need the stroller for your new baby, your other child will probably be walking better. A double stroller is only really necessary when it's just you alone with the kids anyway - if your husband is coming with you, using two separate strollers is easy enough (hello $15 umbrella stroller!). However, if your kids are going to be less than 18 months apart (like with my third baby), I think a double stroller is something you might want to consider.
3. Diapers. Obviously. If you are using cloth, you need to evaluate the age gap again. I'd say if the new baby is coming right around the time you could be potty training your older child, you will probably still need more cloth diapers (sorry to burst your bubble). You might be lucky and have your child potty trained in a weekend, or it could be a really long process. Your child could be ready before the baby comes, or they might not. They may be doing great with potty training and then regress because of all the changes with a new baby (I think it's generally not a good idea to mix potty-training changes with new baby changes, but everyone is different). Bottom line: Potty training is unpredictable, so play it safe.
4. Somewhere safe to put the new baby. If you don't have a swing, bouncy chair, pack and play, or something like that, get one so you have somewhere to put the new baby when you need to help the older child. I think it's pretty unlikely that someone having a second baby would not have at least one these things already, but just in case.
5. New pacifiers. Pacifiers hold a lot of bacteria (yuck), so just get new ones.
That is pretty much all I can think of. If you still have everything you had for your first baby, you are probably already set for most things. You just need to decide if you are going to need to re-purchase any big items, depending on the age gap, and then fill in the little things that need replacing or that you wished you had with the first baby.
Anything I'm forgetting? Do any of you have any items that you think were lifesavers for when you added another baby to your family? Comment below, I'd love to hear!
Have any specific questions for me about having more than one (or more than two) kiddos? Leave them in the comments and I will tell you what I think!