How to Tell Your Child You’re Having A Baby
- July 05,2018
Welcoming another child to your growing family is big news for everyone, future big brothers and sisters included. When it’s time to share your pregnancy announcement with your current little one(s), there are a couple of tips to keep in mind to make the news as easy to process as possible and to keep the lines of communication open after you do so.
The specifics of how and when to best break the news largely depends on your child’s age, personality, and development. In general, most experts recommend waiting until your pregnancy starts to show. Seeing evidence of a baby bump will help young children imagine that a baby is actually growing there. It’s also recommended to tell them before you tell any other family members, which will eliminate the chance of them finding out from anyone other than you and in a way that is beyond your control.
We’ve broken down some more age-specific pointers below, but overall, it’s best to keep the news simple and positive, to follow your child’s lead when determining how much information to share, and to meet any and all emotional reactions they have to the news with total acceptance and validation.
18 months and younger
Children 18 months and younger may not need to hear an announcement from you at all. Pre-verbal toddlers lack the cognitive ability to understand the notion of pregnancy, and they may not even clock the changes happening to your body. If they have started to talk and participate in pretend play at this age, then it’s possible that they are able to imagine a baby inside of you. But if not, an announcement likely isn’t necessary, and you can wait until the baby is born to introduce them.
18 months to 2 years old
Start planting the seed before you announce it to them. Pick out books with a new baby or sibling relationships. Specifically bring up any of your child’s friends who have younger siblings and say, “One day, you could have a little brother or sister, just like them.” When you do tell them the news, keep your explanation simple and positive, and share it at a time when they are calm. Keep in mind that toddlers don’t possess a clear concept of time yet, so it can be useful to associate the due date to a holiday or season. For example, you can simply say, “Mommy has another baby growing inside of her right now. By Christmas, you will have a new baby brother or sister.”
Your toddler may show very little interest in your news and simply move on. If they do exhibit feelings of sadness or confusion, offer to hold them and listen to how they’re feeling, letting them know that any and all feelings about the news are okay.
After you’ve shared the news, follow your child’s lead on how much information to share about the pregnancy. Answer their questions as they come up, but keep what you divulge light. If you’re feeling sick, don’t tell them it’s because of the pregnancy so as not to associate the new baby to you not being able to play. You can just say you aren’t feeling well or need to rest. If their curiosity is piqued, you can show them photos from when you were pregnant with them and share stories of when they were a baby.
3 years and older
Similar to how you would break the news to a toddler, keep your announcement straightforward and simple. Avoid telling them during a transition period, such as when they are starting a new school year or preschool, or dealing with a bout of the sniffles.
Be prepared for more probing questions at this age, such as how babies are made. Again, follow their lead when it comes to how much information to share and how much to involve them in the preparations. If they are excited and eager to be involved, perhaps delegate that they share the news with another family member, open any gifts for baby, or offer for them to feel your stomach when baby is kicking. Sharing your ultrasound photos and videos from your Babyflix app is also a great way to share in the anticipation of welcoming new baby together.
It will be hard for your child to imagine what having a new baby in the house is like. To prepare them for what to expect, you can say things like, “The baby won’t be able to play toys with us at first, but we’ll be able to give him/her kisses and hold his/her hand.” This is, again, where stories and photos of your child as a baby are useful and fun to revisit together. They can help give your child tangible evidence of what to expect.
Of course, there’s no way to fully predict how your child will react. Don’t be surprised if they exhibit feelings of upset or indifference. It is a lot to process, and how they do so will depend on their cognitive development, age, and temperament. Keeping things simple and always taking cues from your child will help you determine how best to involve them through this transition time. And as always, you know your child better than anyone, so first and foremost, trust your instincts on how and when to break the news.