While having a sibling for Baby (and any other children you have) may actually have been one of your reasons for having another child, once the time comes to actually tell them the news, it can be hard to figure out the best way to deliver the big news. A lot of decisions go into figuring out the right time to make the announcement – not wanting to say anything too early, not wanting to tell anyone else before Baby and have them find out from someone else, and the fact that Baby or an older child might start to notice some of your pregnancy symptoms on their own anyway.
There are a couple of things that are good to keep in mind when deciding when to tell your children about the new addition to the family, and the first is that you might not entirely have a choice. Things come up, like an unexpected question from a friend, or morning sickness, or an unscheduled doctor’s visit, and you may have to tell your children before you’re ready. That’s why, even if you’ve decided to wait a few months, it’s good to have what you’ll say in mind. The second thing to keep in mind is that, with children as young as Baby is, it can be hard to explain the span of time in a full pregnancy, so waiting a few months might help them out. Even then, though, very young children can have a hard time conceptualizing what adding a baby to the family will mean.
The big reveal
Some parents like to turn telling children about a new sibling into a major event – something with balloons, big-sibling t-shirts, or a guessing game with clues leading to the revelation of a new baby. These activities can be treasured memories, but they’re also more likely to be well-received by older children, especially older children who you’ve already talked to about the possibility of a baby sibling.
Very young children have less of a frame of reference for the idea of new siblings, and it can help to ease them into it a little. You can try pointing out friends or relatives who have baby sisters or brothers, putting the idea into context with big-sibling picture books, or acting it out with dolls.
Even the most thoughtful way of introducing a new baby to your children doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have a totally smooth transition – a new baby is a massive change to any child’s life, and that kind of change can be hard to process. In order to cut down on the barrage of changes to your child or children’s lives, it can help not to cluster all of the necessary changes together. If your child is due to start nursery school, or start potty training, or the addition of the baby to the family means that they will have to switch from a crib to a bed, it can help to try to make these other changes a few months ahead of time. This way, your child or children have time to adjust to these other changes before the arrival of the new baby changes things again.
Some parents find it helps to try to find a visual way of illustrating the fact that having a new baby won’t mean that you or your partner will love the child or children you already have any less. Saying so is important, but having a visual representation, like a drawing or a candle-flame (which can light another candle without getting any smaller), can help to give your child or children something concrete to hold onto in their memories.
Some children react to the news that they won’t be the baby of the family anymore by regressing to behaviors you thought they’d moved past. While dealing with this regression may be the last thing you want to deal with now that you’re trying to get your life ready for a new baby, indulging your child by babying them may be both the best way to reassure them of your love, and the quickest way to move past this stage.
If you suspect your child or children may have a hard time adjusting to life with the new baby, you might be surprised by how much good-will a well-timed gift ‘from the baby’ to your child or children can bring.
While it’s definitely possible that introducing your child or children to the idea of a new sibling could mean talking to them about the birds and the bees a few years earlier than you had planned, it doesn’t come up nearly as often as parents worry it will. If Baby asks where the baby will come from, and you don’t want to have a full biology lesson with them, you can try offering a piece of the truth – that the new baby will grow in mom’s uterus, which is in her belly – and see if they are satisfied with that as an answer. If a new baby or child is joining your family through a different channel, there’s still a good chance you’ll be able to find a simple way of explaining things to your little one.