#CultivateCalm Series: Transitioning Your Toddler for a New Sibling
When I first met Rose & Rex, I was drawn to their kind and beautiful founder, Allie Klein (who has written here before), her shared respect for a child’s capacity and the team’s value for thoughtful design. When Allie first shared with me the inspiration and prototype behind the Calm Mind Kit, Rose & Rex’s first product, I was pregnant with Lyla and definitely in the throes of transitions for Bodie - potty training, school and, of course, planning for his sibling.
The Calm Mind Kit, which teaches mindfulness and meditation to children, felt like a tactile guide that I and Bodie could probably both benefit from during this time of immense change. The kit provides children with a variety of tools for emotional development and well-being that helps them learn how to focus, self regulate, and build confidence - all which comes in handy when navigating the big emotions of the toddler, especially at times of change.
While I could write about our own experience with each of these shifts and what worked for us, I figured there was no one better than Allie, who can draw from both her time in education and now at Rose & Rex, to craft a three-part series focused on ‘Toddlers during Transitions’ and specifically, #CultivatingCalm. I’ll let her take it from here.
Of all the transitions that we face with our little ones, few are more joyful or daunting than preparing to welcome a new baby into the home. How do we help a child begin to understand that his or her understanding of essential concepts like identity, family and home must morph and grow? While the transition can feel overwhelming, there are a number of tested tips that can help you and your little one #CultivateCalm as he or she prepares for and adapts to the role of big brother or sister.
Keep Them Involved in the Prep
While it’s important not to push, it can be helpful to offer your child opportunities to help with preparations for baby if he or she shows interest. Ask her if she would like to pick out a favorite toy to add to the nursery, draw a picture to hang on the wall, or go with you to choose baby clothes. Involving her in these special moments is meaningful and can help her get excited for both the arrival of baby and also her new role.
Help your Older Child Connect Back to His or Her Newborn Days
Taking a walk down memory lane does more than make mama nostalgic, it also offers an experience of connection for your little one.
Rose & Rex’s Education Director and mom of two, Lauren Vien, shares that it can be comforting for older children to see and hear that you cared for them, just as you are caring for their newborn sibling: “Photos of you nursing or bathing your older child can be especially helpful. My son, Henry, loves looking at photos of him playing with the same toys that we’re currently introducing to baby Violet.”
Let Your Child Experience the Feels
While learning to regulate emotions is an important skill, it is equally important to allow children to experience and process what they are feeling in an authentic way. Instead of disciplining your child for uncharacteristically negative behavior, identify the “why” behind the behavior, and offer extra empathy and support.
For example, in a tough moment try offering your child a hug, hand, or lap or encourage them to retreat to a cozy, quiet space with a favorite story or activity.
Play It Out!
We’re play people over here so we firmly believe that imaginative play is one of the most powerful ways to help children process their feelings about becoming a sibling.
Encourage your children to have play time with a special doll or stuffed animal. When children engage in dramatic play they are acting out things that are happening in their own lives, exploring emotions, and trying new ideas.
When children try on a role, such as mom or baby, they must take on the perspective of who they are pretending to be, which helps to shift the way they perceive the world and their relationships. Play also offers children the time to wrestle with concepts and feelings that they may not fully understand, like taking care of a baby.
Play Tip: While it can be tempting to “divide and conquer” with your partner or a caregiver, family play time is especially important during transitions. Gather together for a group jam session, block building party or drawing time!
Follow Your Child’s Lead
While many parents encourage their older child to “help” with baby-related tasks, it’s most valuable to follow your child’s lead.
Lauren shared, “my two-year-old is incredibly helpful, loves special jobs, and often tells me he’s ‘doing work’ around the house. I was surprised by his lack of enthusiasm when it came to assisting during diaper changes and nursing sessions. I am trying to follow his lead. I invite him to help without judgement or expectation. I want him to feel included, but not pressured. We’ve discovered one baby-related task that he does enjoy: (gently) banging on his baby sister’s back until he hears a loud burp!”
In addition, ask teachers, caregivers, friends, and family to follow your child’s lead as well. Instruct them to let your child bring up or chat about the baby when he or she is ready.
Help Your Child Reduce Anxiety with Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to what is going on inside and outside of the body right now. Children who have an ongoing mindfulness practice have been found to have increased happiness, reduced stress and a greater ability to control their emotions and behavior. When children throw a tantrum or behave in an out of control way, it does not feel good. Conversely, it feels scary to experience emotions that seem large and overwhelming.
Establishing a mindfulness practice arms children with tools to calm themselves down when they feel upset. Our Calm Mind Kit introduces mindfulness to children in a playful way through activities like “the noodle,” which teaches progressive muscle relaxation and “wave breathing,” which fosters deep belly breathing.
While it’s never too late to start a mindfulness practice, the benefits of mindfulness do not occur overnight. It ‘s important to establish a consistent practice with your child so that they have known tools they can turn to for comfort and relaxation in moments of stress. Plus, carving out some one-on-one time with your older child to practice meditation and mindfulness might not be such a bad thing for mama at the end of a long day!
Is there a certain practice that helps your own child(ren) #CultivateCalm? What served your toddler during a similar transition?
Allie Klein joins us from Rose & Rex for a three-part series on how to #CultivateCalm and ‘toddlers during transitions.’