Wednesday, March 30, 2011

preparing a toddler for the new baby

dad and the boy

If you type 'prepare toddler for baby' into Google, you'll get close to a million hits and although I definitely haven't read them all, I have read a number of articles in my parenting magazines and email newsletters on the topic and they all pretty much say the same thing.  Expect some regression in your older child, make time especially for them, make sure that you prepare them and talk to them before the baby arrives, etc etc.

What the articles don't tell you, or at least haven't told me, is that behavioural changes in your child can start to occur long before the baby arrives.  Despite all my reading, in no way was I prepared for my 2 year old to suddenly start becoming mommy-obsessed and clingy.

I so did not expect him to...
  • Start crying and screaming each night before bed; he's been sleeping on his own since 5 months and suddenly mommy's presence is required for at least 10 minutes after books are finished.
  • Start waking in the night and screaming every time I left his room, until I figured out that sitting in the rocking chair for 10-15 minutes was enough to for him to settle back into a slumber. 
  • Start dragging his 'bear' and 'blankie' everywhere.  Usually they don't even leave the bedroom, this week he's taken them with him to his grandma's every day and she tells me he's even taking them in the stroller.
Combined with the tiredness that comes from being 34.5 weeks pregnant, raising a toddler and working full-time outside the home, I have to admit I've been feeling a little bit overwhelmed.  Fortunately, after a visit to my midwife, I felt both relieved and up to the challenge.

She assured me that the boy's behaviour was perfectly normal, that toddlers hear much more than they can understand and thus find themselves very confused about what exactly is happening.  They hear things like 'where's the boy going to go when you're at the hospital?' or even 'where's the baby going to sleep' and they start to feel displaced because as far as they know, they're not going anywhere.  And so, its just natural that they become clingy; they are such observant little creatures, we really need to give toddler's more credit.

My midwife also mentioned that often in these situations 'Daddy just won't do' which greatly relieved the hubs who was starting to take the boys actions a little personally (despite his best efforts not to).

The best news of all?  The midwife also mentioned that in most cases toddler behaviour returns to normal shortly after the arrival of the baby, once they realize that although things are different, neither mommy nor the toddler is going anywhere or being left behind, a new normal emerges.

Some twitter chatter has indicated that this final point may be optomistic, regardless I'm going to hold onto the hope that once the baby arrives, the boy will find his balance and the clinginess will start to dissipate.  Did it work that way for you?

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