Can I help my son come to terms with the new baby?

I am pregnant with my second child. My son is 13. His father and I are divorced; it was a bad marriage and my son was rejected by his father. Since the divorce, his father fades in and out of his life. My son is very angry about the new baby and told my new husband and me that he wants no part of it. Do I punish him or try another way to get him to be less negative and hateful? All of this really upsets my new husband, who was trying to encourage my son to be a part of the new baby/family.

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Your son is dealing with a lot of sorrow and pain right now; the last thing I would recommend is that you punish him for his negative feelings. You cannot force someone to be happy and excited. At best, you might convince your boy to hide his unhappiness, but that is a terrible idea; repressed feelings contribute to all kinds of mood and behavior problems.

Step back and try to see this situation from your son's point of view. His own father has been absent, and now he's watching your new husband eagerly await becoming a father to this new baby. In a sense, the very thing your 13-year old has longed for -- an involved and caring dad -- is being played out right in front of him, but just out of reach.

My advice is that you talk with your son -- perhaps at bedtime when he's more vulnerable -- and allow him to share his feelings about the new baby without editing or censoring his responses. Help him get in touch with the sadness underneath his negativity; if possible, help him have a good cry. He is dealing with another layer of loss -- more evidence that the fantasy of life with both of his parents is not going to happen -- as well as a reminder of his own father's indifference.

The more room you give your son to feel what he feels without taking it personally, the sooner he'll come around. Chances are, once the baby arrives, his heart will melt and a sweet bond between them will develop. But for now, give him the chance to cry, mourn and grieve the absence of his own fathering -- which is being stirred up by your pregnancy -- and reassure him that you'll always be there for him, through all the ups and downs of this new chapter in his life.

Your husband sounds like a good man. Encourage him to come toward your son with attention and care without trying to force him to be close. With time and patience, the four of you will become a family of your own.

Yours in parenting support,
AdviceMama

AdviceMama, Susan Stiffelman, is a licensed and practicing psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in developmental psychology and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology. Her book, <a href="" rel="nofollow" cl="http://www.passionateparenting.net/thebook.html" class="comlink"> Parenting Without Power Struggles</a> , is available on <a href="" rel="nofollow" cl="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1600374840?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=a0382e-20&amp;linkCode= as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325&amp;creativeASIN=1600374840" class="comlink">Amazon</a> . <a href="" rel="nofollow" cl="http://www.passionateparenting.net/freenewsletter.html" class="comlink">Sign up</a> to get Susan's free parenting newsletter.

I wouldn't punish your son.  At 13, when a mother appears pregnant, it is kind of strange.  By that age, they know the facts of how you became pregnant, and this is embarassing to some kids to admit their parents are having sex.  

 

What I would do is encourage your son to become excited about having having a new brother, as he might be looking at this pregnancy that he is being replaced by the baby and will be again abandoned now by you. 

 

Good luck.  Once the baby arrives and if he is actively involved in his growth and development, this will teach your son good parenting skills.  Relax.  More than likely he will love the baby...don't we all?

 

Jeanne

Your son is frightened more than angry and has seen that you stopped loving his father and wonders when you will stop loving him.  I think your son may feel that once you and your new husband are a "complete" family that you won't need him any more and that he will be pushed out of the relationship and will in effect have lost both parents and this is terrifying to him.  I can understand how he feels but the answer is not to punish him but rather to make him understand how love works.  My brother and his wife have seven children and someone once remarked to me that it must be difficult to divide up your love amongst that many children and I had to explain to him that you don't divide your love among your children--you MULTIPLY IT.  Your son needs to understand that concept.  Also, it would be helpful if your new husband reinforced that message as much as possible before the baby comes.  After all, it will be a long time before the new baby is old enough to take to a ball game and by the time the new baby is old enough to be involved in adult type activity, your older son will be away at college.  My sister had a son in her first marriage and divorced when he was an infant and he had almost no contact with his father.  She remarried and had two more children with her second husband but he also became the only father her oldest son really ever knew--and to her husbands credit, he loved his stepson and treated him just like the other two.  You don't mention what kind of relationship your son and husband have, but if they could work on bonding with some father-son activities it would be good for both of them.  Adolescence is tough enough without having to worry that your parents are going to give all their love to the new baby--and you need to definitely allow him to bond with the baby but be careful.  Anger and jealousy are a dangerous combination and if he sees the baby as the root of all his fears and a danger to him, there's a possibility it could escalate into something horrifying although I feel that's unlikely. As your new child grows older, it's going to be massively important not to play favorites although since you only have one child right now, you don't realize that while you love them all equally, you might like one better than another because they are different people; even if you don't consciously recognize it. If you aren't regular churchgoers, it might be good to start.  God and faith can give both of you a lot of peace and help him to understand the concept of unconditional love and prayer has helped many people.  Good luck and God bless.

I would definitely not put a negative spin on what your son is feeling.  It sounds like he's had lots of changes to deal with and not a good male role model to help him navigate things.  I would recommend trying to make him feel part of the new family by enlisting his help in getting ready for the new baby, asking his opinion on things---like maybe the names for the baby.  Ask him how and what he would teach his new sibling.  It's important to let him know that he is not being replaced...he's still the eldest child and equally important in the family structure. 

At 13, your son is still in the middle of the puberty stage and possibly learning about his own sexuality.  My grandson even though much younger (about 3), he was the center of attention until his baby sister came along 2 years later.  He wanted to throw his trucks at her in the hospital.  I told him (as his Nana) he should love his little sister because she couldn't take care of herself, and he should kiss her and tell her he loves her.  Once he did that and Mama had him help her at home getting a diaper for her when she needed changing or getting the towel after a bath, he became more involved in her life.  She became his baby to help his Mom and Dad take care of her.  Today my grandson is almost 7 and my granddaughter is almost 5 and big brother is now very protective of his little sister.  

Your 13 year old son has been rejected in his mind by his father, then his Mom has a new love in her life and now the baby. So he is possibly concerned about where does he stand in this family.  Until the baby arrives he should still be center of attention, even going on shopping trips for the baby.

Last suggestion, if you haven't had your baby shower yet, have your husband and son go shopping for your son's gift for the baby shower and let him attend. As long as he is involved in everything about the baby he will become more excited about the arrival.

The Lord bless you all, hope everything works out for your family.

Mrs. G.  

Punish him for what?  He hasn't done anything wrong.  He's confused, and dazed.

He's been rejected by his father, you have a new husband and you are going to have a new baby. 

The boy is just dealing with a lot.  He needs some time from his mom, not the woman who is expecting; the mom he knows and loves.

I raised three boys and I remember when they hit 13, they became different.  He's starting puberty - and his mother is pregnant - he knows how it happened and you know what, he's a little bit embarassed to think that you had (whisper) sex. 

No he does not need to be shopping for the new baby.  You need to take him for a day out for him.  Put up with teenage stuff for a day and have some fun.  Get him some cool things that teenagers like.  Yeah, it's tough, but for a day forget that you're expecting and be HIS mom again.

And when the baby comes, don't go pushing the baby at him.  Let him observe, let him approach when he's ready.  Strange as it sounds, the first time the new little one looks at the older brother, the first time his eyes focus and he reacts to the new face; big brother will be hooked.  but you have to let it happen.  You can't force it.

u could always give one of them away

I agree with Helen-what this kid needs is a sense of absolute security in his mom's unconditional love. Maybe you dont need to dwell so much on "preparing" him or trying to get him excited about his new sibling. Probably it would be better to let him see that the pregnancy and the new baby are not the entire focus of your attention, that you will always continue to be his mom no matter what. He needs to feel that you love him absolutely, and allow him to have whatever reaction he feels like in his attitude towards the pregnancy. It is highly unlikely that he will NOT be fascinated by the baby once it arrives, just let him set his own pace in establishing the relationship HE wants. He is after all 13, not 3, and I agree with many of the other contributors when they say he doesnt want to THINK about Mom being (gasp) pregnant, let alone TALK about it!  Just love him, be attentive to him without constantly discussing the baby, and relax. I'm sure your husband is a good guy, but maybe he needs to be encouraged to nurture a relationship with your son for his own sake, not just limited to "trying to get him excited about and involved with" the baby. Good luck and God bless.

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