Although only a woman is pregnant, pregnancy and impending birth are really a family event. After all, everyone is affected by mom’s pregnancy (her morning sickness, mood swings, fatigue, etc.), and adding a new family member definitely affects everyone! If you have other children, it’s important to involve them in the pregnancy as much as they’re capable of (really young ones won’t “get it”) so that they don’t feel left out by a new baby’s arrival.
Let’s look at 10 ways you can get your kids involved!
1) Tell them you’re pregnant
Seriously, let them know! A lot of moms want to hide it for awhile, “just in case,” but if anything did happen, your child would notice your stress and unhappiness and wonder what was going on. If you’re open about everything, they will feel included. Besides, kids seem to have a sixth sense about these kinds of things. My 3-year-old announced I had a baby in my tummy almost a week before I even took the test!
2) Bring them to the doctors’ with you
Older kids will especially like to be involved here. They can meet the doctor, ask questions, see the pictures on the wall. And they can “help” check on your baby. My 3-year-old talks non-stop about our midwives’ visits the day or two before and a few days after. She loves to check on the baby and hear the baby’s heartbeat!
3) Show them pictures of the baby’s development
Every week I get an email, showing me what my baby looks like now, telling me how big it is, and what it has just learned to do. I make a point to share this with my kids, so the baby is real to them. I’ve also shown them movies from the inside of the baby developing from embryo to birth. They love seeing the baby grow!
4) Show them their own baby pictures
A lot of younger kids, or those who don’t have younger siblings yet, don’t really understand that things will change when baby actually arrives. Show them their own baby pictures and talk about how tiny they were and what they were like. Most kids love them. Then you can explain that the new baby will be like this, too (fragile and sleepy!) when s/he arrives.
5) Read books about pregnancy and baby
There are lots of great books that are appropriate for different age levels. Some talk in rather general terms about the baby in mommy’s tummy; some get into the nitty gritty details on just how the baby got there and how it will come out. Choose books that are appropriate for your children and read them. Answer any questions your child has.
6) Let your child feel your baby move
Obviously this will have to wait until later in the pregnancy. Once the baby’s movements are strong, though, invite your child over to feel when the baby’s kicking. It will make the baby seem more real!
7) Let your child help buy or sort through baby things
Whether you need to buy all new clothes and items, or you’re just sorting through the stuff you stored from your last baby, let your children help you. They’ll enjoy looking at all the baby’s things and exclaiming over how tiny the clothes are. This, too, will make it real that the baby is coming soon!
8) Take your child to visit friends’ babies
If you happen to have any friends who’ve recently had new babies, take your children to visit. Show them how small and fragile the new baby is. If they’re allowed, let them hold the baby and see how gentle they need to be.
9) Talk about baby names together
Okay, if your kid wants to name the baby Wiggles, obviously you’re not going to do that (right?). But you can still include your child in talking about different baby names. Tell your child how you chose her name and why her name, and she are so important to you. Once you’ve selected a name (if you do before birth), call the baby by name and encourage your child to do so too.
10) Invite your children to the birth
Okay, I know that’s controversial, and I plan to talk about that one a bit later. But children who participate in their sibling’s birth, or who are able to join you in the delivery room immediately after (I mean, like a minute later, not a few hours) are very much a part of the baby’s arrival and don’t feel strange about it. Their place hasn’t been usurped and the baby is as much “theirs” as “yours.” Although my daughter, who was under 18 months when her brother was born, did not attend the birth, I would have let her if she wanted to. She was also there within a minute after birth and it was an amazing bonding time for us. I never saw any of the jealousy or regression or “weird” behavior from her because she so completely part of it all.
How do you get your kids involved in your pregnancy?
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