You’ve spent months preparing for the arrival of your new baby – filling the drawers in the nursery, pulling baby toys down from the attic, stock-piling diapers, and talking endlessly to your beloved first born about their new baby brother or sister-to-be. Then the day arrives when you have that new member of your family in your arms, either at home or in a hospital bed, and it’s time for your children to meet for the first time. After months of preparing your child for the arrival of a new sibling, it’s common to fear what the first meeting will look like once the reality hits that the new baby is actually here. Will you see immediate bond or immediate dislike? How can you help your older child work through this amazing transition in their young life? In Part 1, we talked about the ways to prepare your older child when you are expecting, and here we are going to talk about the big introduction and ways to make it less stressful for you and your child.
- When you are bringing your toddler to meet your infant for the first time in the hospital setting, remember that the hospital setting can be very scary and uncomfortable for your young child. If your child comes to the hospital to meet you and baby, make sure that they come with a caregiver or family member who is specifically there to be with them, who can also take them out for a special trip or break when they need to get out. Also, keep these visits short since there are only so many ways to entertain a toddler in a hospital room.
- If you had a longer labor or experience in the hospital, then your child may have been separated from you for a chunk of time (a day or more in some instances). Especially in the toddler years, this alone has been stressful and sad for them and you need to make sure that you acknowledge these anxieties. If there is a longer separation, you can bring a picture of your older child to the hospital with you ahead of time, prop it right next to your bed or in your little one’s crib, and show them that you were thinking of them and missing them while you’ve been apart.
- Your child has probably been missing you, so you should expect that they won’t walk, but will run to give you a big hug once they see you. It may be helpful to have someone call ahead to let you know your child is on their way, so you can pass your new baby to someone else before their arrival – that way your hands will be free to give your older child a big welcoming hug.
- Little gifts and tokens can go a long way and can start the sibling relationship off to a good start – have your toddler bring a drawing, little gift or flowers for you or the new baby, or have a little gift waiting for your toddler from the new baby. Remember that your toddler will most likely enjoy creating or picking out the gift, but will not be as interested in presenting the actual gift once they are at the hospital.
- A ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Big Sister’ balloon or t-shirt for your older child can make them proud and special as they walk around that hospital or hospital room. It also reminds the other adults around you that this is a special day for them as well, and it can help remind other family members to pay him or her more special attention on those first few days.
- During the introduction, allow your toddler to look and touch their new sibling. Let them touch or kiss their toes, take pictures of them together, and older toddlers and preschoolers can even help hold them with an adult’s assistance. However, do not force these moments if your older child is more interested in the novelty of the hospital room or by any other people or toys in the room. They have years ahead of them to be filled with play time and fun!
Part 3 of this series focuses on the real life regressions and testing that your older child may exhibit once your new baby comes home.