Friday, April 4, 2014

Telling Your Little One About Your New One

Deep discussions with toddlers aren't hard. They're damn near impossible. This is because toddlers lack sophisticated (or even basic) communication skills. Yes, toddlers speak and some speak in rough sentences, but speaking doesn't equal understanding. Try explaining to a toddler why two cookies is the limit or why eyeglasses don't belong in the toilet. They may accept the rule, happily or not so much, but it's doubtful that they'll grasp the reasoning behind it. With that said, how do you explain to your toddler that another baby is coming to town...and staying? If the simple discussions - like cookie limits and toilet boundaries - can be difficult, how do you handle the highly conceptual topics of pregnancy and siblings?

Now is where I'm suppose to give you a half dozen ideas on how to have this highly conceptual conversation with your tot. Well, I got nothing for ya. I don't know jack about it other than what I've observed from friends and what I've observed isn't mind shattering:

  1. Mama's belly - Discussions about the baby being on mommy's belly, rubbing and pointing to mom's belly, rubbing and pointing to toddler's belly 
  2. Baby's stuff - Discussions about all the things that the baby will need and use including the nursery, clothes, diapers, bottles, toys, books, etc.
  3. Role-playing with a doll - I've only seen this with girls, apparently we all gender stereotype more than we think
  4. Books about siblings
  5. Sibling wxamples - "You know how Benjamin is Robert's brother? You are going to be the baby's brother." 

More involved activities I've heard of (not seen) include bringing the toddler on a family shopping trip so that he/she can pick out a toy for the baby and bringing out some of the toddler's old possessions to "reminisce" about when the toddler was a baby and thereby identify with the baby.

Does any of this work? I think so. I don't have any friends who had major issues with their firstborn accepting their second...not that I've seen or been told. But how much prep work is needed? And what methods work better than others? And what should my expectation be in terms of how much my  toddler will actually understand? And, am I overthinking this?

The answer to the final question is definitely yes. Overthinking is what I do.

Maybe it doesn't matter whether you develop a specific plan to explain the impending life change, because, with or without a strategy, the information will be conveyed. You're going to talk about the baby and prepare your family's life for the baby and physically change as the baby grows inside you. After nine months of build up, the toddler will understand that something big is about to happen. Perhaps, it's not so important how detailed that understanding is. Perhaps, the only important thing is that you just keep communicating - keep explaining why eyeglasses don't belong in the toilet and that the best gift of their life is just a few months away.

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