However, you don’t want her to hear the news from someone else. So, tell her first if the people around her are likely to bring it up with her.
How to tell her the happy news
Here are four steps that you can use to tell your toddler that you are pregnant.
- Dedicate a time to telling her the news.
- Keep your words very simple.
- Go with the flow.
- Include your older child in your pregnancy journey.
Dedicate a time to telling her the news
This is not a conversation to have during early morning mayhem, while you’re getting you both dressed and ready for the day. Instead, choose a time when you’re both relaxed and there is no time pressure.
Make sure she’s recently had a nap and something to eat.
If you like, try and include your partner in the discussion. This will underline the message that you are a family.
Keep your words very simple
This is not a time to beat around the bush. Keep it clear. Keep it direct. Be ready for questions.
Something like: “You’re going to have a baby sister or brother. She or he is growing here inside my tummy (or uterus – depending on your choice of word use)”.
Then you should make the timeframe very clear. Perhaps link it to a specific event (before your birthday or Christmas) or mark your due date on the calendar (somewhere around this time – we don’t know the exact date).
Go with the flow
Make sure there is no time pressure so that you can respond to your child’s response.
She may have questions. Answer them as simply and directly as you can.
She may not have a response at all and just want to continue with what she was doing before.
She may want to touch your tummy or rest her head on it – let her.
Do not insist that she’s happy about your news. Just respond to her where she is.
Talk to her about what she did when she was a baby. Show her pictures or videos and discuss how she slept, ate, burped, what she wore. Show her her baby clothes and point out how tiny she was – and how much she’s grown.
If she seems upset by the news, then reassure her. But continue mentioning the new baby casually in the coming days, weeks and months.
Whatever she does, you need to be available to her.
During your pregnancy, tell her often that you love her. But please do not link this to the new baby…
However, your job is not done yet. Please include your older child in your pregnancy and preparations for the baby’s birth.
This brings us to:
Include your older child in your pregnancy journey
Here are some strategies to include your older child in the birth preparations.
Strategy #1: Create Excitement
Make sure that you reflect excitement about the new baby to your older child.
- Talk about the new baby often.
- Let your older child feel the new baby kicking once your pregnancy has progressed far enough.
- Take her with you to your scans or show her pictures of the scans. This way she can see the baby inside you.
WARNING: Be very careful of your words, even when you think your older child isn’t listening.
- Mention often that you think she’ll be an amazing big sibling – to her and other people.
- Don’t complain about your morning sickness or how tired you feel when she can hear you. You don’t want her to resent the new baby.
- Don’t try to run interference with phrases like: “Don’t worry, I’ll still love you” or “We won’t love you less”. This is not a seed you want to plant.
Strategy #2: Learn together
Look at picture books about pregnancy or watch videos showing the progression of pregnancy together. You might want to look at the weekly progress on your favorite website or app together. Celebrate the new baby’s developmental milestones together.
Strategy #3: Reinforce positive “Big Sibling” behavior
Find ways to transition your older child into their new Big Sibling role well before the birth. Some ideas include:
- Make her the “Pregnancy Announcer” – perhaps to (an already prepared) Grandmother or close friend. Just be prepared that she’s likely to tell everyone she meets.
- Look at other babies together. This is a good time to explain that you stroke a baby’s arm and don’t poke them.
- Read and re-read stories about being a big brother or sister
Lastly, think through the limits around your older child’s participation in your pregnancy.
For example (and from personal experience), don’t ask for advice on names. You might get some horrendous “suggestions” (Norbert for a boy and Norbetina for a girl) and have to deal with upset and disappointment when you choose a different name.
Also, be prepared for some pretty ransom selections if you include your older child in buying clothes or equipment for the new baby. So, decide upfront if this is something you want to do.
Good luck – and enjoy this happy time together.
And if you’re worried that your older child might be jealous of the new baby, we're sending you a free guide on how to prepare your toddler for your new baby’s arrival. Please check your inbox now.