Expecting? B'sha'ah tovah! Have a new baby? Mazel tov!
I hope you're super excited (if a bit apprehensive) about this newest addition... but chances are your older child (or children) are taking this change a bit less ecstatically.
Which totally makes sense, by the way.
I mean, imagine one day your husband came home and said, "Honey, since I love you so much and I so much enjoy having you as my wife, I'm going to marry a second wife!"
You'd probably have to be one of the Imahos to willingly go along with that plan, right?
Yet, for some reason, we expect our little kids to be excited for a new baby brother or sister - and, while, on some level they may be (though that's not always the case!) there's often a lot of resistance and regression too.
No one likes change. I don't. You don't. And your toddler doesn't.
But change can be harder on toddlers than on us big folk. There's just so much out of their control, and when their precious routine is shaken up and the Things They Can Count On suddenly become unpredictable... well... how do they know that everything else is going to stay the same?
And that's scary.
Maybe Mommy doesn't love him anymore. Maybe she won't make food for her or play games and laugh with her. Maybe Daddy will stop giving him that special Daddy and me time. Maybe Mommy won't give him a bedtime hug anymore. Who knows what could change when suddenly there's a new person and Mommy is tired all the time.
Once there's all that scary change going on, your toddler is likely to start pushing some boundaries to test which of them are still in place. Does he still have to clean up his toys? Does she still need to play nicely? Does he still have to listen to Mommy or Morah? Does bedtime still really mean "bedtime"?
Change in one area makes your child feel insecure and start pushing boundaries in all areas of life.
Of course, the irony is that if you let those boundaries shift, your child will feel even less secure (remember - he was doing this because that change was scary for him, and he wanted to make sure everything else was staying the same!).
So how can you ensure that your child feels safe and secure while undergoing this major transition?
Yes, I know everything's up in the air. I know you're busy with clothing and equipment, with nursing and sleeping, with a bris or a kiddush. I know.
And you probably have a stream of well-wishers and helpful hands running through your house, too.
But. I cannot stress how important it is for your child to maintain as much of the normal routine as possible. He usually goes to playgroup or a babysitter in the mornings? Send him. She usually takes a nap? Let her have it. You have a regular bedtime routine? Keep doing it. Obviously some things will have to change (you may not be feeling up to interacting as you usually would have, and like it or not, the baby IS there!), but keeping as much structure and routine as possible the same will do wonders.
Remember that he will try to push boundaries - nap might turn into a 2 hour singing fest, bedtime might become a battle again, she might wake in the middle of the night and ask to come into your bed, or a million and 3 other things.
Hold the course. If she usually had to stay in for her nap for 2 hours, keep putting her in, even if she doesn't sleep. If he had a 7:00 bedtime and then was expected to stay in bed, make sure he stays there. If she hasn't been sleeping in your bed in months or years, don't let that change.
Keeping those boundaries steady will help your toddler or preschooler feel more secure and bounce back more easily.
I've discussed the importance of one-on-one time before, and it's especially important and useful now. When there's a lot going on and a new baby demanding your attention, having a special block of time carved out for just your child and you (or your husband) will enable him to have the attention he craves and needs without having to resort to negative attention tactics that will make life so much more difficult for you.
Remember that having a new baby in the family is an adjustment for everyone - you and your husband, the other kids at home (even the bigger ones!) and the new baby himself. Give yourselves the time and space you need to bounce back as you adjust to the new normal.
What did you find helpful as you adjusted to having a new baby in the house? Let me know in the comments below!