Baby No. 2 on the way? How to introduce them to your toddler without looking like a jerk
By Jason Osmond
Imagine this: You’re at work, chugging along, and your boss walks in your office with a brand new intern at their side and says, “Hey, just wanted to introduce you to Steve. He’s fresh out of school with no experience and has no idea what he’s doing. He’s just going to be sitting around, doing nothing except for draining our resources and time. Just wanted to let you know. Oh, yeah, also I’m cutting your salary and giving most of it to him now. Alrighty then, have a nice day.”
If you introduce your new baby to your toddler the wrong way, you can come across just like that boss did—and, as you can imagine, possibly cause just a little bit of tension. And when I say tension, I mean days of tantrums bolstered by feelings of rejection, alarm, and confusion.
Here are two go-to-home strategies you must implement in order to avoid coming across as a terrible, thoughtless parent.
Giving in Threes
Presentation is king and timing is queen when it comes to managing someone’s first impression–especially if that someone just so happens to be three years old. In my experience birthing three kids (okay, watching my wife birth three kids), I’ve learned that it’s super important to make sure that gifts are involved.
And not just a cheap, throwaway, one-and-done type of gift you buy at the hospital gift shop and haphazardly toss at your toddler to console him in the hospital room. There’s a strategy behind it, and it requires timing and three gifts in total.
Gift One: The Newborn
If you’re holding your newborn in your arms when your toddler enters the room for the first time, there’s a good chance everything will be perfectly fine, and you’ll be able to proceed with all the introduction formalities with no problems. Maybe your kid won’t freak out with jealousy, immediately jump to some ridiculous conclusions about abandonment, or throw a fit right there and then in front of all your close friends and family, completely embarrassing you and ruining your photo-opt.
But then again, he might.
Here’s an idea to avoid the risk. Make the newborn a gift to your toddler.
Now, I can’t guarantee your kid won’t at some point throw a fit. I mean, kids are kids.
Baby Center suggests, “You may want to try to have your hands free when your child arrives so you can focus on greeting her before introducing her to the baby.” When he sees you laying there, all corded up like you’ve just gotten out of a fight, he going to be a little weirded out anyway. Spend a few moments loving them before you have a nurse or family member bring the newborn in. And then you can say, “Hey, Jake, I have a surprise for you. I want to introduce you to someone really special who I know you’ll love.” And then take it from there.
Now, I can’t guarantee your kid won’t at some point throw a fit. I mean, kids are kids, but if you make the newborn a gift to them, he’ll probably be more inclined to catch on to the excitement in the room than he would be otherwise. Get it?
Gift Two: From the Newborn
Alright, now that your toddler feels like the newborn is a gift to them, come back with a one-two punch and have the newborn give your toddler a real gift. One that he’ll actually love. Nothing says, “Please love me” more than gift giving, so make sure that happens. Something like a toy truck or a Barbie doll would do just fine, I imagine. And then spend some time simulating play between your two kids. That might be difficult in the hospital room, but if you can pull it off, and at least make it feel like play to your toddler, then great!
Gift Three: From You at Home
And of course, I would strongly recommend giving your toddler and your newborn a joint gift when you get back home. Obviously, it will only be for your toddler, but by giving it to both of them, you can start to create some semblance of sharing. And then it’s time to celebrate! Do something special, such as a trip to their favorite park or to get a treat.
Finally, I’d recommend taking the time to start the bonding process by inviting some dialogue between your newborn and your toddler.
Wait, what? Dialogue?
Yep, dialogue. Put your finger under your newborn’s chin and softly move it up and down to emulate speech as you, in your practiced high-pitched tone, say, “Hi, I’m little Sarah. I’m new here, what’s your name?” If your older kid responds with, “Hi, I’m Jake, you’re funny looking.” You know you’re on the right track. Dr. William Sears, co-author of, “The Baby Book” said this type of interaction “can make your toddler laugh and help him see his sibling as a real person.”
As your newborn, ask if it’s okay if she can live in the same home and play. Ask if he could help her to learn how to be as cool as he is. Ask about dinosaurs, building blocks, spaceships, and Pixar. Ask what kind of games he likes and what he loves to eat. And most importantly, ask about the family. Have your older kid explain to her who is who and who does what. Let your older kid feel like he’s taking ownership of your newborn’s education and family integration.
As is the same for adults, when you feel responsible for people, you’re much more likely to take care of them and see that they succeed. You can’t force your two kids to have a good initial relationship. But if you nail that first impression, more than likely their precious little relationship will thrive.
Jason is a writer, marketing strategist, and professional dad. He lives with his wife and three kids in Vineyard, UT.