|Its unclear what is more anxiety-provoking: your second pregnancy, or preparing your first child for the arrival of the next baby.
Several questions arise, such as What can I do to make this a positive event? When should we start talking about the pregnancy? A lot of this depends on the age of your first or other children. A good guideline to remember is, that the younger your child is, the less preparation is probably involved.
So when should you tell your child that you are pregnant?
Clearly, it is a personal decision, and one that is also based on your current childs age and what is going on in the family. Things to consider:
Not too early:
- Nine months is a long time for you. It is almost unimaginable to some children, especially those of preschool age.
- The miscarriage issue. Would it be better to get past the first trimester before telling your child? Some moms would prefer not to have to explain a miscarriage to younger children (5 years and less), hence, holding off until your past the first trimester may be something you want to do. However, keep in mind that although most miscarriages occur in the first trimester, untoward events can occur at any time during the pregnancy.
Not too late:
- If you are having a lot of morning sickness and fatigue, you may need to tell your child sooner than later, lest they worry about your own health and well being.
- Even if you think your child is too young, he may overhear and understand more than you think when you are speaking to other people about the pregnancy.
- Some kids may develop some anxiety if they know something is going on, but are not being told.
Regardless of when you tell your child, keep it simple and age appropriate. You neednt go into a lot of details regarding reproduction, pregnancy and delivery all at once. It may be as simple as saying that Mommy is growing a baby inside of her. Let your child take the lead to ask what questions he may have. Most parents may be surprised at how few questions their children ask. Dont be surprised if you dont get much of a reaction initially, but questions slowly follow over time.
What about reproductive questions?
Again, keep it simple and age appropriate. Using animals and their babies can sometimes be helpful for those who are squeamish. Also, there are a lot of books out there that are geared towards different age groups. Again, keep it as factual as you can, and let your child take the lead with the questions.
Now that youve gotten the initial news over with, what about preparing your child for the arrival of the baby?
- If you are going to use your childs crib for the baby, the sooner you transition your child to a toddler bed or big boy bed, the better. Its best to put the crib away for awhile. That way there is less association that the crib is his.
- If possible and age appropriate, toilet training or weaning from bottle or breast is best done sooner rather than later. If you feel it is going to coincide with the arrival of the baby, it may be better to put it off until later. Toilet training and weaning from bottle or breast are difficult transitions, and best not done at the same time as the arrival of a new sibling.
- If something like the start of preschool is going to coincide with the arrival of the baby, it might be a good idea to introduce your child to that kind of setting before the baby arrives, whether that is through groups with your attendance (Gymboree, Mommy and Me) or without (the daycare at the gym, etc.).
- If you are planning on letting the baby use some of your childs old baby toys, the sooner you set them aside the better so it doesnt appear that you are taking toys away from your child to give to the baby. Keep in mind that there may be some items your child has clearly outgrown, but has still clearly identified as his. If that is the case, its best to get another one for the baby. You will also find that this may come in handy when the baby starts playing with more toys and there are some toys that are babys and some toys that are your older childs. Sharing is frequently not an easy things for adults, and it is much harder for young children.
Discussions of life with baby:
- Limit discussions of what a great playmate the baby is going to be. This will not occur for some time. And as much as you may not want to think about it, they may never be great playmates.
- Emphasize the role your child will play with baby and how important he will be to baby. (i.e. helping Mommy and Daddy take care of the baby, teaching baby how to use a rattle, etc.)
- There are a lot of good books out there that discuss life as a new sibling, the good and the bad.
Other things to do:
- Expose your child to other babies if you can. Seeing that babies cry a lot, sleep a lot, and feed a lot helps your child know what to expect, especially in the early months. Also, it may help your child learn gentle touches and behaviors as well.
- If your child seems especially drawn to babies, buying him a baby doll to practice with can also help. Not only will he practice nurturing behaviors, but also may express feelings towards that baby doll that he would not express to you. Again, this will help your child process the whole thing.
- Once you are further along, it may be fun to bring your child to the OB, allowing the child to listen to the heartbeat or even see baby on ultrasound (although it may be too abstract looking for the child, let alone you!). Similarly, it may be fun to let your child feel the baby kick.
Remember! There is going to be a change. No doubt about it. How your child handles that is dependent on his personality and temperament, as well as your handling of the situation. Dont be too scared about stories of displacement and trauma associated with the arrival of a baby. On the other hand, some preparation as discussed above can certainly help with the transition.
Next month: Preparing your child for your hospital stay and the arrival of the baby to your home!