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Welcoming new baby: How to help big sibling with the transition

Welcoming a new baby to the family when you have a toddler is a joyous occasion, but can also be fraught with trepidation and worry.

With the help of some tried and true tips, the transition will be more manageable and you will better understand what your little big sibling is feeling.

1. Don’t spill the beans too early.

It’s exciting to discover that you’re expecting again and even more exciting to share the news. Great, share it! But not with your toddler. Their limited sense of time means that telling them of this exciting event months early creates worry and anxiety.

I suggest waiting as long as you can, and then giving concrete details. “After spring comes and there are new flowers, then the baby will be here.” Waiting until the last month to tell them will keep the whole family happier.

2. Reassure your child: You are my first baby forever.

It may sound exciting to you that your toddler will be a big brother or sister, but your child has no idea what that means. Toddlers are just figuring out what being “me” is. And now they have a new role: big brother or sister.

Instead of focusing on that, remind your child that he will always be your baby, even with a new baby here. He can’t hear it enough! Also remind yourself just how little your older one is. Three-four-five-six. They are still new to life in many ways. And they need to know you will still be there for them, in all their baby needs.

3. Expect regression.

Toddlers regress. This can be before the baby comes or after (or both!). It’s their way of communicating that they’re not sure what is going on. More clinging, toileting setbacks, increased whining or tantrums and sleep disruptions are common.

Do your best to remember how little your older one is and avoid control battles as best you can. Instead, bring them closer—they need you more. Extra hugs, cuddles and babying them can go a long way in helping them move through this major change in your family.

4. Make it ALL about the older one.

“Hey! Your baby was looking for you, wondering where you are.” “Look, baby! Your sister is back, she came home from school.” Presents delivered to the door? Let your bigger one open them and play with toys, read books and explore the other goodies in the box. You’ll be grateful for friends who remember to send a big-sibling gift, too.

5. Jealousy is normal.

We expand our families with the idea of having siblings who love each other and are friends for life. That will happen. Later. For now, having a new baby can bring out love in your toddler but also jealousy and a whole mix of feelings.

Try to recognize the anger and confusion your child is feeling (“It is so frustrating when mommy has to feed the baby again!”). It will help them handle those complex emotions. Recognize her need to be with you: “I will change baby’s diaper so fast so I can come back and read you a book.” It helps her feel understood.

6. Make your child Mommy’s sidekick.

Young children like to help. Bring your toddler onto the “management” side with you by giving her simple tasks. Let her bring you a diaper for the baby, or hold the baby’s toy while you get him into the car seat. These empowering moments give your firstborn a way to be part of the action and to be mama’s little helper.

7. Grab even the smallest moments of alone time.

It can be hard to manage two. Small pockets of time that are solely for you and the older one can go a long way. A few minutes reading a book can help your child feel connected to you. Label that time, “It is only mommy and (child’s name) reading now. No baby here.” Your child will know he has something special with you.

8. Ask for help from everyone who will give it.

A second baby is an adjustment, a joy and a big change. You may be someone who likes to do it all yourself, but now is not the time for that. Meals, free babysitting, someone to take your child to the park, groceries dropped off: Accept help. You can return the favor in the future.

9. Let go of perfection.

Mamas can be hard on themselves. I encourage you instead to go easy on yourself.

As you let go of perfection, you will relax more and find greater joy in being with your two bundles of joy. Dishes can remain dirty, bedtime may have to vary a bit. But at the end of the day, you are a mama of two and you are doing it!

Pro tip: The audiobook version of How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success is now available! (Foreword by Ms. Sarah Jessica Parker.)

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It's pretty much the definition of bittersweet. When your child leaves preschool behind and heads off to Kindergarten it's natural for a mama to be have some mixed emotions.

That's exactly what happened to Kristen Bell recently as she watched her oldest daughter, 5-year-old Lincoln, take on one big milestone and prepare to conquer another.

According to E! News, Bell took to Instagram Stories to share her tears with fellow parents, while watching Lincoln and her classmates do their final musical performance as preschool students.

"Don't worry guys I'm having a GREAT time at preschool graduation. I'm not a mess or anything," she captioned her video.

The tears prove that emotions can catch us off guard when it comes to our children's big milestones. Recently, Bell told E! News she felt great about Lincoln's transition to Kindergarten.

"I mean, it has nothing to do with me, I'm just sort of here for her, and I've shown her the school," she said.

But graduations, first days and other milestones can catch a parent off guard. Suddenly, you realize your little one is growing up, and it has everything to do with you. It's amazing, it makes you proud, and it's okay to cry.

You're not a mess, Kristen, you're a mama.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Getting kids back into a school year sleep routine is hard work. There are so many reasons for kids to stay up over the summer, like fireworks, campfires and the fact that the sun itself has been staying up so late.

Incrementally later bedtimes happen slowly over the summer, and at this time of year, parents are looking to reset the clock fast. But when you're six years old and you've spent the last couple months basically living a life of Saturdays, it might take some convincing to get you under the covers early.

Enter the Disney bedtime hotline. Until August 31 parents in the United States and Canada can call 1-877-7-MICKEY at bedtime and a classic Disney character (Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck or Goofy) will tell your kids to go to bed.

Callers can select one of five special messages per call, and the folks at Disney hope the line will "give kids something to look forward to at bedtime" as we creep closer and closer to the first day of school.

The Disney bedtime hotline may sound silly, but getting kids back into a bedtime routine (especially when they've grown used to staying up as late as the summer sun) is serious business.

According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, school-age kids need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep per night, and when summer ends, kids no longer have the option of sleeping in a bit on weekdays. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine goes even further, recommending between 9 and 12 hours of sleep for kids 6 to 12 years old. Kids 3 to 5 years old should sleep 10 to 13 hour (including naps).

"Among three to five-year-olds, lack of sleep is associated with memory consolidation and language development difficulties, and with a lesser quality of life," said Wendy Hall, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine panel that made those recommendations explained after their release.

"Children aged five to 12 years who get less than nine hours of sleep have significantly increased odds of obesity," Hall, a sleep specialist and nursing professor at the University of British Columbia continued.

"Sleep routines are critical for kids of all ages. Reading a book, telling a story, singing a song, or getting into a toothbrush routine help kids settle into sleep better," she explained. "Banning electronic devices from the bedroom also helps."

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a five-year-old who starts school at 8:00am (and needs an hour or so to get ready, eat and commute) should be going to bed at 8 or 9:00pm.

If your child's school starts early, or they have a long bus or car ride to get to school, you may have to call Mickey even earlier.

Thanks for the help, Disney.

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Today was THE day. A big, monumental day in the mind of a mother: Kindergarten registration. I laugh as I write this because it's not even the actual first day of kindergarten, but it is important nonetheless. And, to be honest, my world is spinning a mile a minute right now.

Interestingly enough, I'm a grade school teacher. I've worked in public education for an extraordinary school district for more than a decade. I've won educator awards, held leadership roles, written curriculum, conducted staff in-service instruction in front of hundreds and recently created a website for teachers and parents connecting them to the modern world of elementary education and all of the incredible resources we have available to us.

You'd think I wouldn't need to blink an eye about today, but you're wrong.

My first son is a beautiful soul. He is playful and funny, loves building Legos and having Army battles, and also loves mooning us at bathtime. He has strengths God blessed him with like an impeccable memory and a contagious belly laugh.

He shows his uneasiness when he hugs onto my leg and nuzzles his head as a stranger walks up to us a little too fast and looks to me first before responding. When he rubs his fingers across his (usually pursed chapped) lips, I know he's nervous or lost in thought. I recently noticed I do that too, so what can I say. My son. I love every piece of him.

Today was a moment, though. He's almost ready to enter my world of expertise, and to share it with him through his lens excites me and breaks my mama heart a little bit.

I'm excited for him to be challenged and engrossed in the wonderful learning opportunities planned for him each day. Seeing him question the world around him, noticing the finer details in life that we often forget to recognize—it all makes my heart explode with joy.

Simultaneously, he's (almost) too heavy for me to carry upstairs when he falls asleep on the couch or wants to be an airplane again like his little brother. I no longer need to brush his teeth after him to "make sure" we did a decent job, and I not only long for him to help around the house, I expect it. Carry your plate over. Let the dog out. Help your brother fix this or that. Make your bed.

When I feel him on my leg as the Kindergarten teacher comes over to greet us for some basic testing I think, C'mon, smile, be you, buddy. I think, You should see him at his best, he's usually not this shy, and then it comes to the forefront: I want you to love him as much as I do.

Today, and when the first "real day" comes, I want what (I think) we all want. I want him to be accepted. I want him to love learning. I want him to know that it's a forever skill and can occur anywhere, anytime—not just within the walls of this school.

I want him to find some buddies who have similar interests. Who like to laugh. Who are kind. Whose parents are kind. I want him to be loved by his teachers. I want them to accept him for him, blessings and quirks, and help reinforce what we care about in our house—all of him. Social skills, academic success, mental health, safety. These things are important to me, they're important to most of us, and they are all a part of finding a balance.

And while my mom self would love a narrative of his daily work, his insights, his growth, my teacher self knows the reality of a classroom. If given the choice, I'd choose to have a teacher spend time being engaged with instructing kids and planning lessons and discussions versus responding to my emails and questions.

Teachers have so many incredible options available to support the core curriculum now. If given the choice, I'd rather his teacher focus on being his or her absolute best, their own level of awesome, for my son and for the entire class. If given the choice, I'd prefer their time not be taken by my desire to obtain every little detail of what's going on (no matter how much I'd love to hear it).

Every now and then, I hope my son's kindergarten teacher shows me something small to let me know that she loves him too, that she sees the essence of him as I do. And I'll do my best to support him and you from the homefront.

Today, in my mind, was THE day, and we made it through just fine. We are so fortunate to have so many of THESE DAYS ahead of us.

I know in my heart he's ready.

I know we're ready.

Bring it, kindergarten.

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