The imminent birth of a new baby can evoke all sorts of emotions in the other children. Often this involves excitement in the older ones, maybe some anxiety or confusion in the younger ones. And those emotions will occur no matter how matter-of-factly you as parents began your discussions, for no matter how calmly you talk about it, your children will likely tune in to and focus on the changes in you as you prepare for the new addition to the family.
It is important to understand that young children often express emotions through changes in their behaviour. Of course you will want them to feel excitement and anticipate with pleasure the changes that are to come. Your task is to reduce your children’s anxiety, and hopefully assist them to express any uncomfortable emotions in a less disruptive way.
Obviously, you do need to talk about the fact that you are having a baby and that the baby’s arrival will change the composition of the family, so the real questions involve how and when you have those conversations.
What to say to the children
The ages and the curiosity of the children will provide your greatest guides as to how and when to speak to them. Very young children may initially show little curiosity about their mother’s enlarging belly nor even notice or understand her tiredness, and may only respond when invited to talk about it. You need to ensure that they have the ‘heads up’ from you, rather than hearing about the new baby from relatives or well-intentioned friends of yours, but keep the discussion brief, and the focus should be on them. It will not prove necessary to force discussion about feelings or what things will be like. Very little ones do not yet have the capacity to contemplate future events or even envisage any time beyond right now. When they seem ready, it will be up to you to start talking about what the future holds, with an emphasis on the idea that the new baby will become a part of the lives that the family has been building together.
Follow the lead of your children in determining the amount of detail you give them about how a baby is made or the birth process. When children ask technical questions, take care not to make the answers too technical, but don’t insult them by making up stories about the stork delivering babies, when clearly they want to understand better why Mum started growing a baby at this time. You can find many good books written for parents to use for children of different ages, to assist you in sharing with your child the information that seems right for them. Story time thus becomes an ever more important time of the day for children, as the pregnancy develops. They will have to find different ways of sitting on or with Mum, as her changing shape alters what feels comfortable. With daily cuddly contact, the change in Mummy won’t seem so dramatic, and the children will be more accepting of the gradual changes. So, although the coming baby will not necessarily become the subject of every discussion, the fact of its growing will be evident and helpful for the children, in their ultimate acceptance of the fact of the new baby in their lives.
Written By Amanda Gordon | March 14, 2012