You must be one of the very few parents of a toddler who managed to keep their “happy and easygoing” demeanor despite the arrival of a new baby. And to start toilet training just after the arrival of a newborn? Astounding. Your child’s transition to toddlerhood has been astonishingly easy, and I say that with the benefit of my knowledge of child development and hundreds of families.
I get that you have become accustomed to your kid’s laid-back demeanor, but “easy” has never accurately reflected the reality of raising an infant and a toddler/preschooler in the same environment. Your child’s “growing up” and the arrival of a new sibling may be too much for them to handle as they approach their third birthday.
You’re already doing what’s crucial to get through this time: strengthening your bond with your youngster. You can use this to get around what appears to be a common reversal in behavior.
Feelings Are Allowed, So Feel Them
Psychologist Rebecca Schrag Hershberg says that when you’re getting used to having a new brother, it’s important to permit yourself not to want the baby around. I consider The Tantrum Survival Guide required reading for all parents of toddlers, preschoolers, and anyone of any age who tantrums (parents included!).
You can grant this permission by saying things like, “I’m so happy to be with only you right now!” or “I miss the old life so much, but I’m really enjoying our time together without the baby.” Now that we have a baby, I long for our alone time together.
As they acclimate to the reality of sharing attention, young children must deal with feelings greater than the few resources they have at their disposal. You’re lucky (so far) that this doesn’t appear to involve significant meltdowns or epic tantrums, both of which are common reactions.
Instead of using words, your chill kid shows emotion through actions that say, “If I were a baby too, I would get the attention I’m missing right now.” They may mimic their younger sibling’s behavior.
The Feeling of Going Backwards
I’ve mentioned it before, but you and I are our little child’s entire mental apparatus at this stage. As parents, it’s our job to think, feel, and cope at the higher levels of complexity that our children haven’t yet reached.
Parents often respond to their children’s regressive tendencies with something like, “But you’re a big boy now; you don’t need me to change your diaper like your baby sister!” I can attest from personal experience that this does not register. A child’s mind does not automatically say, “Oh, you’re right!” I can hold my own with the big boys. Why am I supine like this? That’s one mistake I won’t make again.
Instead, you can mirror your child’s emotions when they act more like a baby than an almost preschooler: You use the toilet but still need a diaper change, right? You must long for the days when Mama had only you to care for, and there must be times when you wish it were still just us.
Asking, “What was it like when you were just a baby?” is a great way to start a discussion and demonstrate a genuine interest in the other person’s experience. I’m familiar with the memory process, and I know that they won’t have any genuine memories, but they might have a dream of what it was like that can help you make sense of his reaction, even if it’s just two words like “More Mama!”
Kindness to Everyone, and Especially to You!
Your question’s final statement rang true for me as a mom; I’ve had my share of sleepless nights like that over the past decade and a half. Even though this phase of parenting is simpler than the newborn/toddler stage, I still look forward to the break that comes with bedtime. Our tired minds and bodies want to protest when our children’s behavior delays that break, but instead, we often yell at them.
I recently realized that inexperience may account for some of my annoyance. Our firstborns are too young for us to have learned the hard way that “just a phase” is not an accurate description of childhood. Most frustrating periods end, and the reasons why are often a mystery. Combining some of the above techniques for dealing with your child’s emotions with deep breaths and reminders that “this too shall pass” can assist.
Regarding your coping, I implore you to be kinder to yourself than I was and than many mothers I know are. The majority of people would agree that raising young children is extremely taxing and time-consuming. Try your best, but be gentle and patient with yourself. Your child will sense a more relaxed you due to your self-compassion, and you will both feel better.
I think your son is having a hard time processing the arrival of a new brother and the upcoming birthday celebration, both of which remind him that he is becoming older. Your love and attention will help him as his developing brain attempts to make sense of these major life changes.
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