We were always a bit concerned about how our eldest son, Isaac – coming up to 3 at the time – would react upon meeting our newborn boy Noah for the first time.
Would they get along?
Would Isaac get jealous of the attention that we would have to give Noah?
Would he not care at all?
It was with some trepidation, then, that I held Noah as Isaac came into the living room to meet his brother for the first time. Isaac wandered in, and spotted 'Baby Noah'. We'd told him what had happened, so it wasn't a total shock. He ran over, looked him up and down, laughed, and then went off to play with his toys. A little later on, he came back to give him a hold; and they've been inseparable ever since.Our fears were shared with every parent who has ever had to introduce their young child to a newborn and were unsure what the reaction would be; which is why it is important to gradually prepare your child for the new arrival instead of surprising them.
Here's what you can do to keep the eye-scratching to a minimum.
Before Your Baby is Born
It is important that you parents begin to plant the seed of a new little brother or sister in the brain of your child as soon as possible, to give them time to mull it over and get their heads around it. Also, it'll go some way to explaining to the poor kid why mummy cries all the time at nothing while her tummy gradually expands.
Don't expect a massive reaction when you tell your child there's a baby on the way, though. Kids get excited about sweets, fish and wrapping paper, as opposed to if mum's up the duff or not; so don't be put out if your kid looks at you blankly instead of fist-pumping the air and yelling "YESSS!!" once you've broken the news.
As an illustration of this point, I imagine the conversation with my mum went when I was told about the imminent arrival of my younger sister went something like this (I was 5 at the time):
Mum: "Ben, come here. I've got something to tell you."
I shuffle over, looking really really cute.
Me: "What is it, mummy?" (still cute)
Mum: "I'm going to have a baby! You're going to have a little brother or sister!"
I pause, and press my fingertips together in some kind of Alan Sugar power stance.
Me: "OK...will I still get fed?"
Mum: (bemused) "Why...yes, of course."
Me: "S'alright then. Nice work on getting knocked up."
Exit stage right.
The thing is, kids aren't really bothered about stuff that doesn't directly affect them, and so to make the first meeting extra special you need to find some things for your child to get excited about, such as:
It's someone new to play with when younger and torment when older;
They'll have someone to look after, and therefore be a big grown up boy/girl;
They will be a big brother or sister, which is just the most super-awesomest thing in the world EVER. (You get my drift.)
We also encouraged Isaac to say goodnight to Noah while Jess was pregnant, and even sing to him from time to time, which was super-sweet when he did it, but not-so-sweet when I warbled a bit of Jay-Z to him in my velvety dulcet tones.
Another good way to let your child know what's about to happen is to read some books to them on the subject. In a nice voice, though. If you do it in a scary voice, you won't be reassuring at all.
After Your Baby is Born
Some mums feel that the best way to introduce their child to the newborn is to have them present in the room during childbirth. My mother did not decide on this course of action for me, for which I will be forever grateful.
Most parents, though, will be introducing child to newborn after the screaming is over and the various fluids have been mopped up.
Here are some handy tips on making sure it doesn't all go pear-shaped.
If you have a young child, encourage them to draw a picture as a gift to their new brother or sister.
Buy a gift from the new baby to the older sibling (I still remember getting a Tonka Truck when my sister was born - it was freaking awesome).
Have someone else hold the baby when your child first enters – they are more likely to kick off if they see you holding and cooing over a new child and not them. Also, by 'someone else' I mean someone related or familiar, not any old stranger.
Tell your child that you've 'brought someone to see them' – this will make it seem as if the baby is excited to see their sibling (when in reality it can barely see past its own little utton nose).
Let your child hold the new baby as soon as you can and have as much contact with it as possible. Your child is more likely to form a bond if they can touch and feel the new arrival, as well as cementing the fact that the baby is real.
Include your older child with activities involving your newborn, such as washing or nappy changing. This will help make them feel appreciated.
Spend time with your older child, just the two of you. Leave the newborn with your partner and devote a couple of hours or so to your child, so they don't feel left out.
These hints will help everything go swimmingly when you introduce your kids for the first time, as well as boosting the formation of a friendship between the two. I can't guarantee that there won't be any awkward silences; not least when your child looks at you and says something along the lines of "Daddy, how are babies made?"
Related articles on Parentdish:
The presents new parents will really thank you for
The Newborn Diaries