By Rebecca Wilson from Me & You Raising Two
Managing your time equally between your toddler and newborn is something, with the best will in the world, you can’t prepare for. Thinking the other day about Emelia, and how well (on the whole) she has adapted to a new baby made me think how I’d feel if Brett came home one day and said “This is my new wife! She’s going to be around for the rest of our lives, I’ll still love you and spend time with you but she will need to be included in everything.” Umm, I don’t think so! Far fetched I know, but for your toddler, this is how things can seem the second they meet their sibling, and more so from the moment they’re brought home. Excitement is likely to be the first emotion displayed, it certainly was for Emelia. But the realisation that a new person has joined the family and steals a lot of time with mummy and daddy means the tantrums begin to set in.
Our plans to introduce Oscar to Emelia went completely out of the window when I went into premature labour. Oscar had to spend the first 3 weeks of his life in intensive care, where Emelia was not allowed to visit. It was so hard for us to explain to her that she had a brother but she couldn’t see him. It was heartbreaking. When we finally brought Oscar home Emelia was so excited, she held him, kissed him and talked to him like he’d always been around. It wasn’t long before the routine began to kick in and for Emelia, the novelty of having a new baby in the house wore off slightly.
On the whole she has been brilliant with him. She adores him and we’ve only had a couple of ‘moments’ where I’ve had to tell her to be gentle with him. But I think that would be the case for any child, especially a toddler. There are times when your toddler will act out in such a way that you need to instil discipline. When Emelia misbehaves we have the naughty step, where she stays for 2 minutes. Although sometimes when it’s connected to Oscar, I feel a massive amount of mum guilt for putting her on there. However, children need discipline and regardless of the fact a new baby is around or how difficult they may be finding it to adjust. It actually helps them feel secure, they need discipline as much as they need their routine.
We’re almost 3 months in to our new life as a four and although we have a long way to go, everyone seems to be adjusting pretty well.
Here are my tips on managing your time and the demands of having a newborn and a toddler:
Allow your toddler to help with your newborn
If I’m honest, this is something I struggled with initially. I was so protective over Oscar when he came out of intensive care and really wanted to be the only one to look after him. On reflection, that came from the separation I had from him. I had to tell myself that Brett and Emelia had also missed out on precious time with him.
Some people don’t like their toddler to be that involved with the care of the new baby. I think it’s vital. Emelia started holding Oscar (with our support) as soon as we brought him home. As he had to be bottle fed she’s able to help with feeding too. I really feel that it has helped boost her self esteem. Being able to help with Oscar makes her feel empowered. Therefore minimising the chances of jealousy and a wedge developing between them. Giving them plenty of praise will boosting their ego a little and will give you a happy toddler.
Adjust to your new routine
If you’re like me, you would have had a pretty solid routine in place for your older child/ren long before the next came along. Unfortunately, the same routine is not going to apply now. Everything you thought you knew about having a child is about to go out of the window. It’s a struggle, but you will adapt to your new lifestyle. It doesn’t happen over night. It’s hard and we are still trying to get our routine down to a T. There is no right or wrong. Ultimately, it’s whatever works for your family and quite frankly makes life as easy as possible. The one piece of advice I would give is; once you’ve got your newborns feeding and nap time in a set (ish) schedule, work around that.
This is something relatively obvious but is actually much easier said than done. It’s something I have slipped up on a couple of times. Try not to say things like “Mummy can’t play with you now, I have to feed the baby,”. It can put blame onto the baby and then cause your older child to act out or become upset. With Emelia, I try to turn it around into something positive like “shall we read a book to Oscar while he’s having his bottle? Why don’t you choose one” or “why don’t you get your toys out and then Mummy will come and play with you.” Generally, by the time Emelia has chosen some toys I’m just about ready to devote my attention to her. Ultimately, as long as your child knows that you will be playing with them soon they will be fine.
Your Toddlers World
Some days you won’t feel like it, but try to get out of the house as much as possible. I try to think about places Emelia is happiest, and go there. It’s then an enjoyable outing with minimal stress! For example, she HATES shopping, so I avoid it with a vengeance. Whilst it’s important for your toddler to learn to share your time and attention, remember that your baby doesn’t know any different, and won’t remember. So if some days you’re attention is centred around your older child, don’t beat yourself up over it.
Emelia is becoming more and more independent of late, she plays happily by herself and we encourage it. There are times when I need to get dinner ready or hang the washing on the line when she has to occupy herself. However, I always make sure I am around and available to her should she need me. Of course I am always keeping an eye on what she’s up to. Especially when she goes quiet! As Oscar gets older they will learn to occupy each other and benefit from learning and playing together. I do think it’s important for children to spend time by themselves, it helps them to develop their creativity skills and learn to entertain themselves. I always remember my Mum saying “it’s good for children to be bored some times,” and I stand by it too!
One to One
When Brett isn’t working we make sure Emelia and I get some time together. It doesn’t necessarily mean Brett and Oscar are out of the house, or vice versa. It might be Emelia and I sitting down together and reading, doing something arty or baking a cake. Anything that she would like to do where she will have my undivided attention. For most of her life it’s been me and her for the majority of the time, so I think it’s important to maintain some one to one time. Okay it’s not on the scale that it was before, but I don’t think it needs to be. As long as it’s there and it’s consistent.
Oscar is still a little small for much ‘play time’. As he was so premature he is slightly behind in his development. He is however, beginning to focus on objects more and we’ve been getting more smiles from him which Emelia absolutely loves. For the times that he is awake I encourage Emelia to interact with him with me. For example, we play under his sensory gym and look at baby books. She will often bring over her toys to try and share with him. As he gets older, sibling play is going to be even more important. For Oscar’s development but more importantly for their bond. You’ll find your older child will get so excited when their sibling starts to react to them. It brings so much joy and it’s amazing to watch. Encourage your older child to play with his/her sibling, if only for a few minutes.
Write off the bad days.
Some days, and we’ve all had them, everything just goes to pot. Don’t beat yourself up over it, write it off and start again the next day.
Life with a toddler and newborn is hard, but like all phases, it will get easier and pass. Patience and understanding is key but for us a routine works wonders. It might seem like a lot of effort to put in place initially, but in the long run, I promise you’ll reap the benefits.