J.D. asks from Minneapolis, MN on March 18, 2008
Ideas on How to Tell Our Three Year Old I Am Expecting
I just found out I am expecting I am due in November. I am trying to get some ideas on how to tell our 3 year old. I am not sure if I should wait until I start my 2nd trimester or tell her right away. Could you please give me some fun ideas to break the news to her or some recommending reading to prepare her for the new arrival?
Thanks for you help.
P.K. answers from Minneapolis on March 18, 2008
I'm expecting my 2nd in Sept and we told our 4 yr old right away, but had wished I had waited til after the 1st trimester, but luckily nothing happened, but that would have been hard to explain had a miscarriage happened.
But, we told her that she was going to be a big sister and that God blessed us by giving me a baby in my tummy. Then, we discussed all the things she can teach the baby because now that she's going to be a big sister, that's a big responsibility. We also had a conversation (a seperate conversation later) about helping and being mommy's helper when the baby comes and in preparing for the baby by helping more around the house now with chores, like setting the table, clearing the table (bringing dishes to the sink), etc. She is excited to help and is having fun telling her friends and teachers that she is going to be a big sister. We also try not to talk about the baby too much around her because after the baby comes, everything will be "baby, baby, baby". We want her to enjoy this time as a single kid because when the baby comes, it'll come as a bit of a shock for us all, especially her since we'll have alot more time sharing to do. We don't want to overwhelm her by always talking about the baby. Plus, kids don't know when the baby is coming. They don't understand that the baby has to grow in your tummy for 9 months and they really don't know how long 9 months is, so we don't bombard her with too much babytalk right now.
Edit: One good thing about our toddler knowing early was that she could understand when I wasn't feeling myself because I had a baby in my tummy that was making my tummy feel ishy or making me tired. Then, I always related it to how sick she made me, or how tired I was when she was in my tummy. That way, she doesn't start holding anything against the baby for making her mom sick. I just explained that that's what happens when a baby grows in a moms tummy...moms get sick or tired, etc. It also explained my throwing up when I would suddenly feel the urge to blow-chunks and she happened to be watching me. She'd say, "Mom...are you ok?...is the baby making you throw-up again?" I'd say yep...and she'd run and shout to dad..."Dad...the baby made mom throw up again, but she's ok. I'm going to get her some ice chips to make her feel better." Then, she would appear with ice-chips and she would rub my back and say, "it's ok mom...I'm here to take care of you." I think she sort of liked taking care of me, especially since she knew it was short lived. :)
S.S. answers from Minneapolis on March 18, 2008
My son was 3 when we had #2, and he was pretty involved right from the start--at prenatal appts., helping shop for the baby, etc. He even had a hand in choosing the name. We found that by letting him have that involvement it made it feel like the whole family was having the baby, not just mommy or mommy & daddy. He was proud as punch, and still loves his "I'm the big brother" shirt (which, incidentally, was how we broke the news to family--just had him wear it at family events). We also took a "big brother/big sister" class through our hospital. It was a one-day thing where they discussed what it would mean to have a new baby, what babies need, and they even practiced diapering a stuffed animal/doll. Oddly enough, we didn't have any books that we liked, but I would suggest steering clear of the ones that even despite a "happy ending," make a little brother or sister out to be a bad thing. We had a Sesame Street one called "my little brother's a monster" (as in, grover, elmo, etc....they're all "monters"), but the tone was so negative that we never gave it to our son. He was so positive about the experience that we were afraid it would be too suggestive of the negatives. Congrats!!
S.K. answers from Minneapolis on March 18, 2008
Congratulations! After all that waiting and trying I am sure you are very excited. As for when to tell, If it were me, I would wait until 2nd tri unless you need to explain an expanding waistline or morning sickness. When we were expecting #2, we told our eldest (3 at the time) pretty early on and it was very difficult when at 14 weeks we lost the baby. She had a tough time understanding and it was especially hard on me since she wanted to talk about "the baby that died" CONSTANTLY. In fact, six years and two more kids later it still comes up pretty regularly. When we were expecting again a few months later, we waited until we hit 15 or 16 weeks to be on the safe side. We also used the t-shirt to tell family.
As for preparing your daughter, the big sister class is great. Our daughter really got a lot out of it. Also, we were very careful to never blame any of the negative side effects of pregnancy on the pregnancy. I never said mama can't pick you up because of the baby, it was because my back hurt. Or I was too tired to play just now because I went to bed too late (also helps enforce bedtime!) Anything that she or we couldn't do never was because of something to do with the baby or my pregnancy. I think it helped eliminate the possibility of starting resentment early. We carried that through even after baby was born. "because of the baby" was never a reason for why she couldn't do or have something she wanted. Even if it really was.
While we were waiting for the baby to be born, our daughter had special fun jobs to help prepare. We brought out the infant toys and she got to wipe each one down with a soapy cloth. She also arranged the toys and books on baby's shelves. When we found out we were having another girl, our eldest got busy folding her old baby outfits and really, truly loved the idea that her little sister would sleep in the same crib, wear some of the same clothes and play with the same toys that she had. We also made her feel like she had picked out the bedding and nursery decor as well as the name. Then just before the due date I took her shopping to pick out a special new toy that she would give her sister at the hospital. It was a stuffed Snoopy that our now five year old still sleeps with. New baby also gave big sister a present at the hospital which our eldest just loved!
After the baby came home from a somewhat extended hospital stay, big sister again had special jobs. She would greet all visitors at the door, show them where to wash hands and then she would inspect their hands (it was very cute). She was also in charge of giving the visitors any new and interesting updates about the baby. I really wish I had written these down. Baby's progress from a 4 year old's perspective was very interesting. Big sister also chose the toys that Baby would play with (from a pre-screened selection of course) and chose each day's first outfit. We never had her help with the basic care as we wanted this to be a fun experience and to not make having a baby sister feel like work.
A great tip I got for toy safety when there are babies and older kids sharing space really helped as well. I have all our toys in clear Sterilte bins of varying sizes organized on a shelving system (Besta from Ikea). On each bin I taped a photo wrapped in clear contact paper of the toys that belong in that bin. This really makes it easier for big kids to clean up and keep track of their toys. Then, when the baby was born, I added a picture of the baby's face to all the bins that contained toys that, while maybe not baby toys, were safe to be out when baby was in the room. My daughter loved this system and she was very good about only taking out toys from baby approved bins when her sister was also in the playroom. The toys are easy to see and find too. And, when the baby was napping, it was a special time for our daughter to take out those Polly Pockets and Legos and all the other things that weren't okay for the baby to be around. We still use this system and it works great for playgroup where ages range 0-10.
We also kept a daily basket of toys, books and healthy snacks that our eldest could access when I was nursing her sister. Many of the things were special things that were only available at feeding times. This way our daughter didn't resent Mama's unavailability and try to get attention through misbehaving. Instead she saw it has an opportunity for a snack or fun toy.
You have so many great things to look forward to. I really loved watching that sibling relationship develop. While there is certainly plenty of rivalry, there are also a lot of truly heartwarming moments. Best wishes!
C.O. answers from Minneapolis on March 18, 2008
Check your library for books to help your daughter understand that you are expecting. The book we really enjoyed reading to my son was "There's a House Inside my Mommy" by Giles Andreae. Also as you get farther along and the baby starts kicking have your daughter feel it kick and have her talk to the baby. My son would kiss my belly goodnight every night when he went to bed. When it got closer to my due date we talked to him about what it will be like when his sibling was born and how much time the baby would require from mommy and daddy. I think this helped him prepare for when his sister was born. We did tell him right away after I found out I was pregnant.