I’m an only child and oddly enough, so is my husband. So you can imagine the idea of transitioning to two kids was not only a little overwhelming because we have NO idea what we are doing (ever!), but also because we don’t even know what it’s like to have a sister or brother and share our parents’ time and attention!
And before I jump into these tips, if you are expecting your second child, you may have been like me – scared of sharing your arms and attention with another child, and honestly not sure if you could love another like you love your first. Let me encourage you. Your capacity to love increases and your arms become strong enough to hold both. And any “gap” in love or attention your child may feel from sharing your 24 hours with another child is replaced ten-fold with the love and relationship they will experience having a sibling for the rest of their lives.
First, I am by no means an expert in this area and I would be lying if I said this transition was seamless. But I have learned a thing or two along the way, and with the help of friends and family who have gone before us, I think we may have some helpful “tips” to share to make the transition a smooth(ish) one for others.
I can’t think of a better place to start than here. There is a whole lot of grace required in marriage and parenting, and with a toddler and a newborn, there can never be “too much grace” given. Give yourself grace if your patience and temper is short, give your spouse grace when they struggle with the same, give your toddler grace if they are struggling with potty training or poor behavior, and your baby grace if they aren’t sleeping! This season is fleeting and so important – try to take each day (and sometimes moment) as it comes.
You have likely heard about this if you are pregnant with your second child or considering getting pregnant again. Everyone says this is to be expected and completely normal, but that doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating! Hadley did really well the first few weeks, but then about three weeks in she took steps backwards in potty training (and she had been potty trained for 6 months prior to Audrey being born) and she was also more sensitive and having tantrums more often.
What I have heard/read and what worked best for us was staying consistent with her. So whatever type or approach to discipline you have before baby, don’t change a thing. While sometimes it was really frustrating and I just wanted to let something slide because I was so tired, consistency is key. They could be testing boundaries, seeking attention or just acting out of frustration – whatever it is, it’s important to show them that your expectations and rules for them still stand!
A good friend shared this advice with me, and I think it may help others like it has me. If both kids are crying, try to prioritize the toddler over the baby when you can. The baby will take that much less personally than the toddler – especially in those first weeks/months.
This is a huge change for everyone, especially the older child. As the mama, try to make simple but special dates with your older child to give them the one-on-one attention they are accustom to. This will also be important to you, mama! It’s hard to not have some guilt about spending less time and attention on your eldest because the reality is, you only have two hands and twenty four hours in a day.
5. SOAK UP THE SNUGGLES
It is so easy to feel the need to meet the basic needs of your baby, and then set them down to clean, do laundry, pick up the toys from the toddler, or prepare food. But just remember this time is so, so fleeting. Be intentional to soak up the snuggles with your newborn and spend time “playing” with them too! I swear the second time goes so much faster… it’s beautiful and heart breaking all at the same time.
We are very fortunate that Hadley adores Audrey, and loves to help Mama and play with her. We have and continue to work very hard at encouraging Hadley when she is giving Audrey attention – telling Hadley how much Audrey loves her, that she makes her so happy, and how much she looks up to her. When we tell her that, it is very evident that Hadley feels encouraged and wants to spend more time making Audrey smile.
We are also very clear with her what she should not do (mostly things that could be dangerous like: only adults pick up babies, no blankets over her face, no touching of her face, no stepping on her (seriously, we had to cover this one, ha!), etc. But then we allow her to kind of figure the rest out herself. We allow Hadley to play around her (we monitor closely), we want Hadley to feel empowered to play with her – and not like Audrey is the breakable thing she can’t touch or breathe on! I think encouraging her in this way has also helped Hadley to feel the need to lead by example in her behavior, which has been really neat to witness.
Again, I am by no means an expert! We are still figuring it all out here and I doubt we will ever feel like we have “arrived” and have it all figured out. But watching the two play and seeing their little relationship blossom has brought me greater joy than I could have ever imagined.
What things have you done that have worked in your transition having a second child? I’d love to hear from you!