Young children thrive on routine and a predictable environment. Meeting new people can be stressful for some babies and toddlers, especially after one year of quarantining and not being able to practice. What can we do to ease the transition and make the introduction respectful for the child?
I would do this regardless of what temperament your child has, but I would pay special attention if your child has a cautious temperament.
1. Talk to your child
I would talk to your child and let him know that people are coming to your house. It’s probably not going to do much, as he hasn’t experienced big crowds yet, but I would talk to him anyway.
2. Talk to relatives before the event
Talk to family members before their arrival – ask them to give your child plenty of time before offering to hold your child.
I would do this beforehand; I think it’s easier for relatives to adjust if they know in advance what to expect. It’s harder to let them know while they are trying to give a hug or pick up your baby.
3. Go slow
Introduce people to your child and don’t force your child to smile or hug other people. Give your child some space. Show him that you like and trust the family members and guests. Maybe you can share hugs and smiles with your guests.
Allow your child to choose whether he wants to be held or not. Give him time to feel comfortable.
Model and advocate for your child by sportscasting what’s going on. For example, when a relative comes up to your child, says “I want to hug you…” and reaches for your child, you may slowly come closer and say to your child, “Sounds like Aunt Susie would love to give you a hug.” Pause and see if your child is ready. If not, you might say something like: “You don’t look too comfortable. I think you’re saying no for now.”
5. If needed, go to a quiet space
Babies thrive on predictability and routine. You might need to step out to another room with your child to give him some time to be just with you for a little bit.
6. Stay on top of basic needs as best as you can (food, rest, sleep)
7. Have reasonable expectations for yourselves and for your child
Enjoy your time with friends and family! It must be such a pleasure to finally have a social gathering after a long year of waiting.
Wishing you all the best in this difficult yet exciting journey of parenting!