Dear Dr. Bill,
My 2-year-old son, Harrison, is going through a tough time right now because his new baby brother is taking up a lot of my time. I’m trying to give Harrison the attention he needs, but it’s not satisfying him. He cries and whines for me constantly. Daddy tries to help, but he only wants Mama. I know Harrison feels confused about the new baby, because he’ll alternate between trying to kiss him and telling me “no baby!” How can I help Harrison feel loved and secure, without constantly holding him and playing with him?
What you are experiencing is perfectly normal. Harrison has been the center of attention in your home for the past two years, and now all of a sudden this strange little crying creature is demanding a huge amount of your time and attention.
There are several things you do to help Harrison through this time of adjustment.
First, you husband is going to need to take a more active, involved role with both Harrison and the baby. When you are tending to the baby, your husband should engage Harrison in fun one-on-one activities.
He needs to give him his full attention, and resist the urge to give up when Harrison says he only wants Mama. Also, your husband should actively participate in caring for the baby. If he can give you a break by helping with the changing, rocking, and burping, it will allow you to have some special time with Harrison each day.
Many parents notice some regressive behavior in their toddler after a new baby arrives. For example, they may try to climb into the baby’s crib or suddenly forget their new potty training skills.
One way to manage this is to affirm your toddler for his abilities and point out some of the advantages of being older. You might say something like “You are such a big boy now…you can go the park and ride on the swings…the baby is too little to do that.”
Harrison needs to know that he is special and unique…reassure him of your love for him, and praise him when acts helpful or kind toward the baby.
Thanks for writing Susie. I’m Bill Maier for WBCL.