Congratulations! You're embarking on a whole new journey, and it's a fickle trip that will vary from smooth sailing to incredibly rocky waves in a snap, without warning.
So, how do you do this? How do you tell your kids that their life is going to change in a really big way? How do you recognize anxiety, and how do you help them cope? Take a deep breath and remember this: you are not alone. We are a tribe!
There are things you can do and say to encourage your little one to get excited about a new little brother or sister, involving them in the preparations. There are ways you can respond if they are not thrilled with the idea of making room for another sibling, who will likely take attention away from them. Here are some tips, broken down into three categories, so together, we can go through how to approach everything that's going on in our precious little ones' heads.
There are so many creative and fun ways all over TikTok and Pinterest to announce your pregnancy to your child(ren), but your child will need some time to mentally prepare. With this in mind, many parents feel it's best to wait until you’re toward the end of your first trimester (10-13 weeks), and safely out of the zone for most miscarriage risks.
Explaining that there is a baby growing in Mommy's tummy can be beyond confusing to your child, so one of the most important things you can do is communicate (on a level they'll understand) what exactly is going to happen. If your child is older, this could be an opportunity for you to explain the changes that'll happen, step by step. Talk about how their life will change, too. Be open to sharing about the baby's development in the womb, if they ask.
If your child is younger, you probably won't have to explain too deeply. Pull out the old baby toys your child's grown out of. Share pictures of their ultrasounds. Tell them each night, when you put them to bed, that the baby says "goodnight" to them too. Creating the appearance that the baby has already joined the family before he or she actually exits your womb can be so helpful with the transition for your little ones!
Adding a new family member is a big deal! Be open to your kids' feelings. Try to accommodate them, so they feel part of this change, not pushed aside. Let them know that their flexibility and compassion is so incredibly important, because it's going to be an adjustment for the whole family.
Do you plan on having your kid(s) attend the birth? If so, prepare them for all of the emotions they're going to witness, both from you and on their own. Brace them for what they might see, like Mommy bleeding and yelling, which can be terrifying. But if they are prepared for it, then the shock can subside and it doesn't become a traumatic event.
Have little, special gifts for your child(ren) when they come to meet the new baby. Give them a turn holding and bonding with the baby, to help initiate their special connection.
If your child is prone to tantrums, is sensitive, or faces special challenges, you already know how to be mindful of how they process new information and big changes. Reach out to your healthcare professional, pediatrician, or therapist for advice. These specialists can offer you additional resources, exercises, and advice to help you prepare.
Talk to your kid(s), everyday, about how they're doing, what they're feeling, and what they're worried about. Then make a plan to ease their burdens, so they have more room for joy!
You know what you need to do to physically prepare. But what can siblings do?
Children are visual. When they see something happening, their brains begin to process and adapt. Have fun with this part of preparing! Younger children can find excitement in feeling and watching your belly as it grows. Older, more physically capable children can assist in formulating a plan to give the baby space and rearranging the furniture, or creating a new, private space for themselves. If your child is on the brink of needing a new car seat or booster, let them pick out their new seat and allow them to help you install the baby's car seat. Grow their excitement by letting them help you build the crib and decorate the baby's room. Seeing these visual changes and participating in them physically will fill them with pride and make a huge difference in their readiness as a big brother or sister.
Above all, your attitude is everything! Your child will see how you react to the situation and acclimate to you. You'll have easy, breezy days... and you'll have over-stimulating, exhausting days. Take each in stride and remember that you're giving your child the best gift: a built-in playmate and best friend. Best of all, you get to witness every step along the way!