You may be wondering “When do I tell him?” or “How do I tell her?” or “What can I expect my first-born’s reaction to be?” There is no ideal time and no perfect way but here are some guidelines and fun ways to spread the word.
Wait Until You Are Ready to Share with Others The first three months of a pregnancy are such a delicate period. Even if you are starting to show (and this may happen sooner and may be more prominent the second time around) your first-born is not likely to notice. It’s best to wait until you would be comfortable sharing the news with perfect strangers. Why? First-borns are likely to
- share your secret prematurely
- be confused and saddened in the event of a miscarriage making a difficult and traumatic time even more difficult for your family
- want the new baby to come RIGHT NOW – think about your toddler’s patience level while trying to load his favorite app
Base on Your Child’s Age
Your first born’s reaction will be based on how much they understand. Overall, the initial reaction can range from excited to angry but most likely, indifferent. It’s important to acknowledge their feelings, even if it’s not what you hoped for. Photos, picture calendars, story books, and videos can help as time goes on. They are most likely to model your behavior and your feelings but it can really go any way. If you are feeling guilt or ambivalent about having a second child, your first child may pick up on it.
Under 2 – Toddlers this age will have little understanding of what all of this means so you can tell them later on in your pregnancy in 2nd or 3rd trimester. Instead of talking about it, experts suggest rather spending extra time with them. When it’s closer to the due date, tell them in direct terms. Ex. “Mommy is having a baby. It’s growing in my belly. Daddy and I are very excited.” (Dunn)
Ages 3-5 – Preschoolers may get antsy if you tell them too early, but you also don’t want to risk your first born hearing the news from a stranger. Suggest telling them at around 4 months when you are ready to share the news with the world. Preschoolers will respond to looking at photos of themselves as newborns and hearing stories about themselves as babies. Experts suggest associating the baby’s arrival with a specific date such as a holiday or special occasion. “Your baby sister will be arriving after Thanksgiving.” We also recommend creating a picture calendar to help understand the stages of baby’s arrival from doctor visits, to hospital, to homecoming, and what to expect thereafter. (See Picture Calendar)
School Age: Those over 6 are most likely to understand and appreciate the news, although they will not realize the change in family dynamic until the baby comes home. Yes, during the first three months they may pick up on you having extreme emotions, being tired or not feeling well, but hey we are mothers, how different is that than most days. They’ll buy it.
Remember: Emotions will change in your child as much as they do in you. Think about the anxiety you feel as the due date comes closer, the overwhelming feeling you have as you are about to leave the hospital, and the doubt you feel when the newborn won’t stop crying. We are all human and so is your firstborn. It’s an adjustment on your whole family. A poor or unexpected reaction is not a reflection on you or your level of preparedness. It’s your child simply being a child and working through them and it’s normal and okay. Just think about the tantrums you have witnessed if you put the Cheerios in the wrong bowl. They’re human and this too will take time.