Explaining your pregnancy to your other children

There's no 'right way' to explain your pregnancy to your children, but there are a few things to think about first

Whether you’re pregnant with your second baby, third or more, at some point you’ll need to explain your pregnancy to your other child or children. There’s no one right time or way to do this, as much will depend on how the age and maturity of the siblings. But if you’re feeling at a loss with how to go about it, then hopefully these ideas will help a little.

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When should I tell them?
When you choose to tell your child that you’re pregnant again is a very personal issue, but it is a good idea to give your child plenty of time to get used to the idea before baby comes along. With toddlers you might want to wait until your belly becomes obvious, though she might surprise you by putting two and two together herself, pointing to your expanding tummy and saying ‘baby’. If so, this doesn’t get you off the hook of explaining your pregnancy to her: She may have made some connection between bulging tummies and babies, but this will be very abstract. However, this is a good starting point for explaining the pregnancy and what it will mean for her.

With older children you might want to wait until after your first scan, or as soon as you start to show, or be keen to share the excitement with them as soon as you find out you’re pregnant – there are positives and negatives to both. If you do tell older children early then you have to face the possibility that you may have to tell them of a pregnancy loss. On the other hand, if that should happen then you may be relieved that your children can have at least some understanding of why you are so upset.

When you tell your children early then remember it’s probably asking too much of most youngsters to keep it quiet for a while. Bear in mind also that with older children it’s probably better for you to tell them yourself, rather than for them to pick up confusing snippets here and there before you get round to it.

What’s happening in mummy’s tummy?
Sharing explanations about the physical changes that your pregnant body is undergoing can be a great way to spark interest and enthusiasm for the baby, however old the siblings are. Early on you can let your child touch your belly and talk to his expected brother or sister, later on she should be able to share in the excitement of seeing and feeling the baby move. If you have a doppler then you can let her listen to baby’s heartbeat, or if you think she”ll be interested, take her along to an antenatal appointment or two to see a scan or hear the heartbeat there.

Relating what is happening now back to your older child is also a good way of sparking interest. If you’ve got scan pictures of her or pictures of you when you were pregnant with her then get them out and look at them together, telling her that these are from when she was in your tummy.

When will baby get here?
Remember how the six-week summer holiday used to stretch out when you were in junior school? Seven months can seem like half a lifetime to a six-year-old and may not have much meaning at all for a younger child. You can help by explaining the time in ways they can more easily understand, using holidays, seasons or whatever else is most understandable to them.

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Why can’t I do that anymore?
At some point your pregnancy is likely to have an impact on the way you behave with your older child. You might be anxious that she doesn’t kick or hit your bump, you might be struggling with morning sickness and feel unable to play as you usually would, or your growing bump might later mean it’s no longer comfortable to pick up and carry your child as much as you used to. It’s a good idea not to use the baby to explain these changes, to avoid creating or worsening resentment of the bump.

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