What’s ‘normal’ behaviour when a new baby is brought into the family?
Just like there’s no such thing as a ‘normal child’, there’s no ‘normal behaviour’. It is common for children to become more clingy to the mother, but also may reject the mother and transfer affections to another role model. Depending on the age of the child, some may suddenly seem to grow up and enjoy being the big brother or sister. Other children may regress and want babying a bit more, especially if they think that it will get them more attention.
Taking baby’s dummy or toys is common as is crying about things that they’d not normally have bothered about – attention seeking behaviour in general is quite common. It can get more extreme and older siblings can intentionally try to hurt the new baby. This is rare, and normally only happens with older children (children under 3 won’t have the necessary cognitive skills to deliberately hurt the baby but you should still be wary of experimental accidents) but it’s sufficiently dangerous enough that parents need to be aware of it.
What steps can parents take to make the toddler still feel special once the baby is here?
Talking to the toddler and involving him/her in decisions – do you think baby would like to wear the blue or the red top today? Also make sure you keep special big girl/big boy time – often it is best to plan this for when the baby is asleep or when there is someone else to look after the baby whilst you have one to one time with your toddler.
What can parents do to prepare the toddler for the new baby, before the baby is born?
The earlier the better, so start preparing for the new arrival about 6 weeks before the birth. A new baby doll for the toddler can help him/her feel more involved and grown up. It’s good to plan exciting things to do for when the baby arrives so that it’s seen as a positive thing, but don’t make it all about the new arrival. Make sure the toddler feels valued and you’re still as interested in him/her as before.
How can parents help the toddler bond with the baby?
It’s best to try and promote bonding as a family – the children will develop their own relationship and whilst you can tell the toddler how much the baby loves him/her and how much the baby watches him/her etc, it’s better to have family cuddles and show both children that you love them both and are able to give them both the love and attention they need. This reduces competitiveness and resentment between the children, which in turn promotes bonding.