One of the most anticipated moments of second- (or third, or fourth!) time parenthood is when you get to introduce your older child to his/her new sibling. Whether at home, a birthing center or the hospital, watching your newly expanded brood come together and meet for the first time is a cherished and unforgettable experience. However, as excited as parents may be for this moment, many are also extremely nervous and worried about how their big kid will react the first time he meets the baby. Our strategy to ensure a smooth introduction between siblings? Make a party out of it!
Children learn from an early age how exciting and fun birthday parties are. They love to give and receive gifts, eat cake, sing “Happy Birthday,” and play with balloons and party favors. Linking something you know your child enjoys with the birth of the baby will set a nice tone when they meet for the first time and will create positive associations and memories of the baby’s arrival.
Planning the baby’s birthday party doesn’t have to be a complicated or time consuming project. In fact just a few simple things will make the day that much more anticipated and special for your child. Begin by making a party invitation to “mail” to your child. Not only will she love receiving the letter, but you can also use the invitation as way to introduce the idea of celebrating the baby’s birth. “We will have a birthday party for your baby sister when she arrives! Won’t that be fun?” This will generate excitement and give your child something more to look forward to when the baby comes.
Once you have introduced the party, you can include your child in the rest of the preparation:
- Have her help you make invitations for the family members and friends who will come to the hospital to meet the baby.
- Ask her for her opinion and help choosing what treat to make for the party: “Should we bring cupcakes or cake? What flavor would you like?” “What should we have to drink?” Have your child make the cupcakes with an adult at home while you are in the hospital—she will love having a special job and will be excited to show you what she baked.
- Make an activity out of going to the party store to pick out plates, napkins and other supplies together.
- Help her make a welcome sign or banner to use as a decoration in the hospital room.
- Let her pick out or make a small gift for the baby. A fun idea is to decorate a picture frame where a picture of the new siblings will go after the birth. (You may also want to pick out a small gift for the baby to give to your Big Kid!)
After your child comes to see you and the baby and the initial introductions have taken place, ask her “Is it time for our birthday party to begin? Should we light the candle and sing to our new baby?” Let your big kid have a special job like passing out the napkins and plates so that she feels included and “brag” to others about all the things that your big kid has done to help plan the party. Your child will not only feel proud that she has pleased her grown ups, but she will learn early on how wonderful it feels to do nice things for her little sibling.
The arrival of a new sibling is a happy and joyous occasion and one that should be celebrated. Having a fun, simple birthday party to mark the day sends a wonderful and important message to your child—namely that having a new baby brother or sister is a GOOD thing. And hey…if a new baby comes with cake, then your big kid may be asking for more siblings before you know it!