Long ago, children and fathers were excluded from the pregnancy and birth of a baby. Today’s families are actively including the firstborn child (ren) in the pregnancy and excitement of the new baby’s birth. During the nine months of planning and preparation, it is wise to prepare your older children for what is to come.
The first step in preparing an older child is to tell your child that mom is pregnant! The tricky part is timing. When should you tell your older children that a new baby is on the way? Most experts agree that you should wait until the first trimester is over, when the biggest chances for miscarriage are higher. Some people feel that if you tell your child early on in the pregnancy, the waiting time will be too long. It can be hard for a two year old to understand that in seven months, they will have a new brother or sister. Young children are not usually very good at waiting. Others think that the child may overhear adult converstaions regarding the baby or they may even see that their mom does not feel very well. Should you tell your child the big news now or later? It comes down to a personal choice. If you have a young child, it might be best to hold off for a while to lessen the wait time. An older child will be able to deal with the wait time easier and will feel more included if you tell them ahead of time. The more notice you give your child, the more time you have to prepare them for the changes that will be taking place when the new baby comes.
Try to make any changes in your child’s life early on in the pregnancy. If your child is going to start preschool or some other type of school, enroll them early on. You don’t want them to feel as if you are putting them in school because of the new baby. If potty training, switching from crib to toddler bed, or weaning from the breast or bottle is approaching, go ahead and do it now. If you have not accomplished the changes within one to two months of the baby’s due date, it is usually best to wait until after the baby’s birth.
It is okay to be honest and tell your child how you are feeling physically and emotionally. Your child will pick up on the fact that you are sick, tired or moddy. Do not blame the pregnancy or the new baby for anything. Doing so will teach your child to resent the pregnancy and new sibling. If you can not pick up your three year old because your back is hurting, tell her your back is hurting rather than telling her you can’t because you are pregnant.
Let your child participate in these exciting nine months! Show her pictures of pregnant women. Go through her baby books with her and show her pictures of you when you were pregnant, her newborn pictures, ultrasound photos and any other items that are special. Allow your child to go to the doctor with you to hear the heartbeat or see the ultrasounds. When kicks and movements are felt outside, encourage her to feel the movements. When speaking about the baby, say “our baby” so that she senses a relationship with the newest member of the family. When choosing furniture, clothes and other baby necessities, ask for your child’s opinion. Allow her to choose an outfit that she likes the best.
Involve your child in baby prepartation classes. Most hopsitals will offer some type of classes to older brothers and sisters that are expecting a sibling. Your child will be able to socialize with other children who are experiencing the same thing that they are. Take her to the hospital’s nursery and let her see the new babies.
Go ahead and install the car seat in the car and place a baby doll in the seat. Your older child may have been used to sitting in the middle. Switch her seat to the outside early to prevent any confusion. Set up the crib, infant swing, changing table and any other items that will be “new” once the baby gets here. Allowing your child to get used to these items ahead of time will make it easier on you all once the baby arrives.
Make the transition as easy as possible for your child. Generally, children adapt well to changes and with proper preparation it makes the chances easier for everyone involved.