It’s an exciting time for everyone — welcoming the idea of having a new family member. Some parents share the news with their children right away, while others wait for more security following the first ultrasound or appointment. There really is no “wrong” time to share it. How you break the news, though, might make a difference in how your older children accept it.
The reaction will depend on the age. If your kids are less than two years old, they probably won’t be able to wrap their heads around it or remember it on a daily basis. Children between two and four years old will better understand their mother’s growing belly. After the baby is born, this age group will also tend to act out more than others due to Mom (and Dad) sharing their attention with the newborn. (via Mayo Clinic)
There’s also a mental change in boys and girls around age three. Sex hormones shape the brain with the slightest differences. Boys are more likely to do well with cognitive thinking and experiences while girls are better understanding things from an emotional perspective. (via Zero to Three)
For older kids, they will experience some jealousy from time to time, but it’s important to redirect it with asking them for help.
When introducing the initial news, be excited. There are several ways you can go about it:
Make it a conversation. Ask your child how he or she would feel if there was a new baby. Tell them about how they could play and learn together. Describe what life would be like for your child with a new sibling. Have this conversation many times. Share how you're feeling, too. Click here for tips on getting through subsequent pregnancies.
Utilize children’s books and shows. There are so many wonderful books and series available to parents regarding this topic. One of the go-tos is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood “Meet the New Baby.” If your child is really into dinosaurs, find a dinosaur book about welcoming a new baby, like D"Dino-Baby" by Mark Sperring.
Bring your child to an ultrasound appointment. This is totally up to you. Bringing your kiddo to an appointment with you can be good or total chaos. The ultrasound appointments will give them a visual, especially the anatomy scan or a "sneak peek" scan when the baby really looks like a baby.
Gift a special item. Picking out a baby doll, new blanket or stuffed animal and associating it with the arrival of a new sibling can make your child feel so special. When all the excitement is focused on the babe-to-be, a gift can go a long way.
Create a countdown calendar. Sit down and have fun with this one. Make a calendar by milestones or trimesters. Mark your appointments, take photos of your growing belly and let your child hang this calendar in his or her room.
Make it inclusive. Instead of saying, “Mommy is having a baby,” try, “Mommy, Daddy and Ben are having a baby.” You can talk it up by referring to the new little one as Ben’s little baby. Click here for more ideas of how to bond with your kids.
Focus on their interests. If your child is really into dress-up or toy cars, take advantage of that by getting an infant dress-up costume or designing a road to the hospital for the cars to take. Emphasizing this news where their interests already lie is going to make it easier for them to understand and accept.
For more ideas or if you’re experiencing issues, talk with your pediatrician about ways to improve the situation.
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