Bringing a toddler into your life can be sleep depriving enough, but bringing a toddler into your own children's lives has the potential to be either very challenging or life enhancing. Depending on the age of your own children, you will have to deal with scheduling conflicts.
If you have teenagers, they may look at this new toddler with angst, thinking their social lives are now over since they will become built-in babysitters. Talk to your children about this and any other concerns they may have. They should not become your default babysitters, and you should try to make this merge as undisruptive as possible for them as well as for your stepchild. Teenagers who fear their lives will be negatively impacted by their new little sister may not be willing to spend time with her. They may resent her and avoid her at all costs. If you do try to set up babysitting with other family members so you do not disrupt your teenagers' lives, you may find that they actually want to babysit, and develop a strong relationship with their stepsibling.
Concerns for Children Between Toddler and Teenager
If you have children who are between toddler and teenager, you may find you face issues of jealousy. Since infants and toddlers are labor intensive, you may be spending less hands-on time with little ones of your own. Your children will be able to understand this and accept this more when they are teenagers. Prior to the teen years, however, they may see your stepchild as the reason you are not paying as much attention to them. Be aware of this, as most children will take out their anger on the stepchild, not on you. If you see this happening, address the situation and explain to your child that it is not his stepsister's fault — she is only seven months old and needs to be held frequently. It may not sink in right away, since what your child wants is your attention back on him.
Think about making a chart similar to a behavior plan chart that will reward your child with time alone with you if he can help out in some way with his stepsister. For example, if he helps wash the baby bottles, he can earn a walk around the block with just you. This will give him some control over the situation, help him develop caring and responsible behaviors around his stepsister, and allow him to earn time with you.
Your child may need to wait for gratification when it comes to a reward. Do not promise time alone with you at any time he wants; instead, make coupons that he can hand to you for redemption, and the two of you can then make a plan. Plan your alone time when you are 100 percent sure there will be another adult available to take care of your stepchild.
If you have a toddler and are going to merge two toddlers or infants, sticking to schedules will help you the most. If your toddler is with you full time and your stepchild only visits, you may have to compromise both schedules a little bit to make your time together as manageable as possible.
If you can get them napping and eating at the same time, your life may be a little easier. You do not want to do this, however, if it is going to negatively affect either child's daily routine. If you disrupt your stepchild's schedule and then send her home, that is unfair to the other biological parent. If their schedules seem impossible to manage without disrupting them somehow, talk to the other biological parent and get suggestions from him. He may be perfectly fine with moving your stepchild's naptime up half an hour. Completely different schedules are not necessarily bad, however, so try them a few times before you change them. One toddler may nap 1:00–2:00 p.m., giving you time to spend with the other toddler. When that toddler goes to sleep, you will have uninterrupted time with the other toddler. It may take time to figure out the perfect schedule, but you will eventually find one that works for the whole family.
If both your stepchild and biological child live with their other parent full time, consider having visits where you have everyone together as well as visits where each child visits solo. This way, you will be able to work on your relationship and your partner's relationship with each child. The children can work on their relationship with each other when they visit together. As they get older, they may want to visit together more frequently, and may even visit each other at times when no visitation is scheduled.