Preparing a Toddler to be a Sibling for the First Time
It can be incredibly difficult for a toddler to adjust to being a sibling for the first time and can you really blame them? They go from being the centre of attention at all times to having to share the spotlight with a tiny little baby who can't really play with them and who needs constant care and attention. When I found out I was expecting my second child, I knew that I would have to prepare my daughter for life with a baby to make the transition as easy as possible.
The first thing I did was explain to her what was going on. This was a bit difficult because she didn't really understand the whole baby thing yet. I showed her photos of when I was pregnant with her and when she was a baby and explained that another baby would be coming soon and living with us. It is best to start explaining things to them as soon as possible so they have a while to process it. I would constantly point to my belly and say "there is a baby in there! We will get to meet her very soon". What made my daughter finally understand it all was showing her a cartoon photo of a baby in the uterus. I had to talk about it A LOT because she is quite young so she needed to have it explained to her many times.
Once she understood that a baby was indeed on the way, I was able to talk it up and get her excited! It's important to prepare them for the reality of the situation but in a positive way. You don't want tell them they'll be getting a new sibling to play with because it will take a while for this to be able to happen and you don't want your toddler to end up dissappointed. Avoid saying things like, "don't worry, we will still love you as much as we do now", because that will only place doubt in their minds when there wasn't any doubt there before. Make sure that your toddler knows that things are going to be different but it will be awesome!
What got my daughter really excited about the coming baby was talking to her about how once the baby was here, she would be able to take on a new role as "big sister". I would say things like, "when the baby gets here, you'll get to be a big sister!" and "When you're a big sister you'll get to do all sorts of fun things like help change diapers, give the baby a bath, give her your special kisses, etc". I constantly talked to my toddler about how much her baby sister loved her and this helped her feel a bond between them. We also did sibling gifts where her baby sister gave her a gift and she gave her baby sister a gift (matching "sister dolls").
Another thing that I knew I needed to do to prepare her was to work on her patience. With a new baby, you can't always immediately jump on every request that your toddler throws at you. Whenever my toddler would throw a request at me, if I was in the middle of doing something, I would say "Alright, when I am done doing this I will help you", rather than dropping whatever task I was doing to help her or get something for her. By doing this, she became better at waiting and became much less demanding.
The transition, for us, went very well. Scarlett was excited about her new sister being home and loved helping care for her. She was extremely proud of her role as big sister which was heartwarming. We make sure to constantly involve her and she is so happy to have her sister in her life. There are still times where things get difficult but I feel that she was as prepared as she could have been and that it made a huge difference. The newborn days are so short and having a happy toddler makes it easy to enjoy this short season of life!