Tips for helping your toddler adjust when the new baby comes home

The Baltimore Sun

Kelly asked us for help with a familiar problem - getting a 2-year-old ready for a new sibling. I turned to Marian Edelman Borden, author of The Baffled Parent's Guide to Sibling Rivalry.

Borden says that in the first few weeks after a new baby arrives, parents should expect both delightful moments when the kids interact beautifully, and moments that aren't so pretty. It's all normal. Here are some of her e-mailed suggestions:

* "Accept the inevitable. As much as you want to create an instant loving bond between your children, there will be times when your older one (and eventually your younger child) will be frustrated that he's not the center of the universe or doesn't have your full attention. That's okay. Encourage him to verbalize his emotions, or help him with the words if he's not able to put what he's feeling into language. Compliment him when he's been a big help or shown great patience.

* "Hunger and fatigue are your enemies . Often sibling rivalry isn't the product of deep-seated emotions, but of just being tired and hungry. Try to make sure your older one stays on his nap schedule and eats regular, healthy meals. Take the time for yourself to eat healthy meals, and sleep when you can.

* "Big brothers and big sisters are still pretty little. Your older child may regress - asking for a bottle, waking up in the night, having toileting accidents - as he figures out his new life as a sibling. Dig deep and have the patience (and definitely a sense of humor). Don't insist that he be the "big" boy all the time. This too will pass.

* "Schedule some one-on-one time every day with your older one . As hard as it is - and there are days when you can't see how it's possible to eke out another waking minute - be sure to spend a little time when it's just the two of you. When the baby is sleeping, read to your older child instead of doing another load of laundry. Or if you're going to do the wash, have him help you fold the clothing.

* "Get organized and plan ahead . To reduce your older one's frustrations, think through how to cope with daily tasks. For example, when you feed the baby, have a basket of books and quiet toys that you use to keep your older child engaged and close by. Prepare a snack and drink for the big brother so he can keep you company. (Make one for yourself too!)"

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