When expecting a new baby, telling anyone can be daunting, let alone the toddler you already have at home. The biggest struggle with talking to toddlers about a new baby is that your little one probably won’t understand what you’re talking about. Even if they do, they’ll probably have a range of mixed emotions about it:
Confusion – “What does being a big brother/sister mean?”
Excitement – “Yay! Someone to play with!”
Anger – “I am not sharing you!”
Apprehension – “Will you love me the same?”
Apathy – “Whatever. Now, what about a snack?”
This short guide should help you when it’s time to have that conversation.
Getting Toddlers Excited
Pretend baby. A good way of getting your toddler excited about the new baby is to have them practice what it might be like. For example, they can hold a bottle to a doll’s mouth or put them in a bassinet and show them pictures from a story.
Belly bonding. At around 16- to 18-weeks, you’ll probably be able to feel the baby starting to move. Encourage your toddler to lay their hand on your stomach so that they can feel too. At 24-weeks, your baby can hear sounds, so have your little one read or sing to them through your belly.
Discuss baby names. You don’t have to take the ideas from your toddler for a name for your new baby, but involving them in the discussion will make them feel important in the situation.
Breaking the News
Timing is key! When talking to toddlers about a new baby, wait until the second trimester if you can. That way, you’ll know that all is well with your baby, and you’ll be starting to show signs of pregnancy. There’s no point in worrying your toddler until then unless you have bad morning sickness or fatigue earlier in the pregnancy.
Explain that it’s tough. You need to make sure that your little one knows that you’re not sick, just that growing a baby is hard work.
Keep it simple. Don’t assume that your toddler wants lots of detail. In fact, adults often over-complicate things for little ones because of that, so just tell them what they need to know. Then, of course, you should answer their questions, but keep your answers short and sweet.
Have a reassuring but honest tone. Explain how a new baby won’t mean that you and Daddy/Mommy won’t love your toddler any less, but that the baby will take up a lot of time.
Use picture books. Pictures are clearer than words for toddlers; just make sure that you choose an age-appropriate book.
Find old photos. Photos of your toddler as a baby will help them conceptualize what it’ll be like to have a new brother or sister. Pictures of Mommy during her previous pregnancy will also help so that your little one can imagine how Mommy’s body will change.
Other visual aids. Comparing a baby’s size is often good, such as showing your toddler an orange at 15-weeks gestation or a mango at 19-weeks. Another idea is to use a doll to show the baby’s appearance; you can even have your toddler help change a diaper on the dolly!
Brielle Albert is a writer and digital marketing professional. She earned her Bachelor of Science Degree at New York University. Brielle has professional experience in social media marketing and copywriting.