Congratulations, there’s a new baby on the way! If this is going to be your second (or third, fourth or beyond) child, there are many changes in store, for you and your other children. Planning for the new sibling is key, and it starts with deciding how to tell your kids that you’re pregnant and when you should share the news.
Telling Your Kids That You’re Expecting: How and When Parents Should Do It
While you and your partner may be brimming with joy and excitement at the thought of having another baby, your child might not share the same feelings – at first. We’ve all seen gender reveal and pregnancy announcement videos that don’t quite go to plan (cue a screaming first-born child that wants to be an only child forever).
If you’re trying to decide when to tell your kids about your pregnancy, most couples choose to wait until they know their pregnancy is healthy (usually after the first trimester) before announcing the news.
Parents of a toddler may want to wait until the pregnancy begins to show around the 12-week to 14-week mark. It can help your toddler to better understand there’s a baby coming when they can see your belly starting to grow.
If your older child is asking questions about your morning sickness or other pregnancy symptoms before the first trimester ends, then you might want to talk with them a little sooner. Kids can become worried about seeing a parent who’s sick, and sharing your pregnancy news may help them feel more secure.
Sharing the news with friends and family can also affect the way your older kids feel about your new pregnancy. Children don’t want to feel like they’ve been left out, so think about ways you can involve them in sharing, and be conscientious of their feelings as you tell others. Here’s two scenarios:
- If you want to tell your friends and family about your pregnancy before telling your kids, make sure the adults are aware that your little ones aren’t in the know just yet. Assure them that your kids will call them to celebrate as soon as you break the news, but that they shouldn’t talk about it with your children until you tell your kids you’re pregnant first.
- If you choose to tell your kids first and then announce the news to the rest of your loved ones, get your children involved in the announcement! Nothing soothes a friend or family member that wishes they’d heard the pregnancy news sooner than a cute kid sharing that news.
Whichever option you pick, make sure that it is the right one for your family. Everyone will have an opinion on how to tell your kids that you’re pregnant. Just because your friends announced their pregnancy in a certain way doesn’t mean that you have to.
How to Tell Your Kids You’re Pregnant: Age-by-Age
Telling your child that you’re expecting can be a sensitive matter so make sure to think things through before you spill the beans. For some children, finding out that they will become a big brother or sister can cause them to feel anxious. Remember that while this is a joyous occasion, it is best not to plan anything over the top that may increase that anxiety.
Instead, announce the news to your child in a safe environment where they feel calm and relaxed. Keep the conversation positive and walk them through exactly what is going to happen (but maybe don’t mention newborn sleep deprivation just yet).
In most cases, how you share your pregnancy news will depend on two factors: their age and temperament.
Talking to Your Toddler
Many consider the toddler age the easiest when telling your kids that you’re expecting. This is because the concept of you having a baby is abstract to them. They can’t quite fully comprehend that you are growing an actual human.
Rather than elaborating, make the conversation short and simple. Pick a time when your child is well-fed and well-rested, sit them down, and simply explain to them that you have a baby growing in your tummy. Tell them when the baby is due (e.g. in X months’ time) and that they will be a big brother or sister.
Even if your toddler doesn’t ask many questions, they will still be curious about your pregnancy. Waiting until your belly is growing will help them to visualize what you are saying. At Vivvi, we often use books to help facilitate conversations with toddlers. Peter’s Chair and The Small New Person are two of our favorite ways to introduce your child to the idea of a new baby brother or sister.
Talking to Your Preschooler
Children of preschool age can be a little trickier when sharing the pregnancy news. By this age, they have better awareness, are more used to having you all to themselves, and have not yet grasped how to understand their emotions yet. Have a simple conversation that is honest and age-appropriate. Give your child space to ask as many questions as they would like when they are getting used to the news.
Be prepared for various and ever-changing reactions. Your child may swing from hating the idea of a new sibling to being so excited about the baby’s arrival that they could nearly explode. Their reactions can change on a day-by-day basis all through your pregnancy. This is completely normal.
Reading books or watching movies that discuss the topic of adding a new family member can be beneficial in helping your preschooler understand and get used to the idea of having a new baby in their family.
What To Do If Your Child Doesn’t Take The News Well
First of all, don’t panic. Finding out that you are going to be a big brother or sister can be very confusing and overwhelming for your child. If they react by screaming, shouting, or crying, let them. Make sure that they know it is ok to have these emotions.
Keep an eye out for changes in your child’s habits or emotions, including disruptions to their sleep schedule or a loss of their usual appetite. These signs might mean they need a little extra support from you to know that everything will be ok. Give them plenty of attention, love, and encouragement during your pregnancy as this will help them get used to the changes happening in the family. If the issues don’t resolve, you may want to reach out to your pediatrician for additional advice and resources.
And don’t forget to share your pregnancy news with your child care provider! At Vivvi, we think of ourselves as partners to our parents, and we’re here to help your child be successful during times of transition. Our educators can offer age-appropriate tips and resources you can use at home, and be more observant and empathetic to behavioral changes they may notice when they’re with your child. We can’t wait to be a part of your journey.