I'm a mommy to four so sharing the news of a baby on the way is not a new thing for me. A lot of parents wonder when the best time to share a pregnancy with their young children is. My kids are all 2-3 years apart and we've always told big brothers and sisters right away.
There are a few main reasons people use when they say it’s better to wait but here's my reasons for not waiting:
What if I have a miscarriage, how do I explain that to my child?
Won’t you have to explain it anyways? Children pick up on when their parents are sad so unless you’re going to hide your extreme sadness and grief in the event of a miscarriage, I personally think it would be easier to explain the concept of a miscarriage after they’ve already been introduced to the concept of a new baby rather than trying to explain both at the same time.
Young children don’t really understand anyways so there’s no hurry.
That one is a complete lie and misunderstanding of young children. We told my eldest daughter I was pregnant with her sister when she was 15 months old. Every morning when we woke up I would say “Honeybun, there’s a baby in Mommy’s tummy!” She understood when the baby was making me sick and when we went in for the ultrasound she understood what she was supposed to be seeing. With my sons, she was naming parts on the ultrasound before I could, “Mommy, that’s the baby’s arm!”
9 months is an eternity for children to wait so why rush it?
I’ve found the more time you have to talk about the new baby the better. Children process and absorb things at different paces, something as abstract as a new baby takes time to understand so allowing the child to have time to think about it and ask questions is really helpful. By the time my second daughter arrived my eldest was so excited to see her we never had a problem with rivalry or attention. And two more babies in, there's never been any trouble with my kids not wanting the baby.
The excitement outweighs the constant “is your baby coming out now?” questions and I just use those as opportunities to discuss our future with the baby and what life will be like, asking my kids questions like “what do you want to do with the baby when it comes out?” and “what kind of things do you think the baby will like/need?” as well as answering their questions.
And remember, how you deliver any news about the baby is key in how your child reacts. If you always talk about the baby joyously and lovingly, it’s likely your children will be excited too. Likewise, if you deliver the news hesitantly, weary of their reaction, there’s a good chance they’ll pick up on your apprehension and think it’s a bad thing and will react accordingly.
Of course when talking about the realities of a baby such as the crying and how much time and attention the baby will need it’s okay to be serious, but I always try to put a positive spin on everything and stay upbeat.
I’ve also found the more often you talk about it the more excited the kids will be and the more likely they will be ready for the baby when he/she arrives. I spent a lot of time talking about all things baby with my kids when we were expecting and involving them in preparations. My girls already knew pretty much everything about the baby inside and even how it was going to get out. (Older kids may ask how the baby got in there also but luckily that has not been an issue for us!)
The younger the kids are, the less they’re going to really understand and sometimes they’ll make their own understandings. I let my girls feel the babies moving and try to explain what’s going on (hiccups or if they’re poking at the baby’s bum), my daughter used to think the baby was “walking awound in dere” and talked to the baby through my belly button (even though I knew that’s not where he was hanging out) but the most important thing was that she understood that there was a real baby in there.
Some resources I recommend for preparing and sparking conversation are:
I’m a Big Sister by Joanna Cole (there is also a brother version)
The New Baby by Mercer Mayer
What Baby Needs by William and Martha Sears
Hello Baby by Lizzy Rockwell
The New Baby by Anne Civardi, Michelle Bates and Stephen Cartwright
Adult Books that show babies growing in the womb:
A Child Is Born by Lennart Nilsson and Lars Hamberger
Watch me…Grow! By Stuat Campbell