First pregnancies are such a special time, nine months spent getting ready to become a family. First kicks, singing to your bump, lazy weekend mornings lying in bed watching waves of movement across your belly. Second pregnancies are special too, of course, but this time you have a small traveller alongside you on your journey, one who might need their hand held at certain moments and assured that you won’t leave them behind.
Here are our suggestions for involving your older child in your pregnancy, when it’s not just your waistline expanding, but your family too.
Talk to them. Be honest, factual and keep it simple. I once worked with a child whose mother was around six months pregnant, only the child had no clue. Not only was there the risk that another adult would inadvertently break the news to the child, robbing them of such a key family moment, but they had missed out on so much of the necessary adjustment period. Talking to your child, telling them about the pregnancy and sharing this time with them, allows them to come to you with all their questions, their fears and their hopes.
Let them spend time with babies. If there are young babies in your family or friendship circle, get your child to spend some time with them, so that they can begin to understand what life with a baby might be like – that new babies really don’t do much, that they sleep a lot, feed a lot and are not going to be able to play, talk or move around for quite a while. Show them what they can do with them though, sing to the baby, stroke its hair, talk to it, etc.
Don’t tell your child that they are going to have to be the big boy now. Yes, some children relish the role of big brother or sister, but others need reminding that they are still your baby and that you understand that they still need looking after. Imaginative play, with them role-playing being a baby again can be a light-hearted, fun way of them fulfilling this need to remind you how little they still are and getting the reassurance they need.
Share books with them that will help them to negotiate their feelings and help to explain what is going on. Some that have been loved here include: What’s Inside Your Tummy Mummy by Abby Cocovini; There’s Going to Be A Baby by John Burningham; What Baby Needs by MD Sears and (especially if you intend to have your older child present at the birth) Hello Baby by Jeni Overend.
Let your child explore pregnancy by setting up invitations to play. You could have a toy doctor’s set and let your child play at giving you a prenatal check-up. Use cushions to let your child pretend to have a baby in their tummy like mummy or use one of our dolls to allow your child to really get down to the very serious business of play, letting them explore at their own pace what it means to be bringing a new baby into the world.