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You’re probably very wrapped up in how pregnancy is affecting you and your partner. You might be surprised by how much it also affects the rest of your family.

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Toddlers and preschoolers have only a basic grasp of time, so they will have difficulty understanding when the new baby will arrive.

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Your other children

Preparing any other children for the new baby’s arrival is part of setting up a good relationship as your children grow together.

The new baby’s brother or sister probably shares the excitement about your growing family, without knowing fully what it means. It's also normal for some children, however, to feel slightly threatened by the new baby. Your child might worry that his spotlight will be whipped away if he has seen a lot of preparation for the new arrival.

Tips for preparing other children

When and how much you tell your other children about the new baby depends on you and on your children’s ages. It can be a good idea to give at least a few months notice so your child has time to get used to the idea.

Here are some things you can do together with your older child to help him understand what a new baby will mean to him:

  • Read books about baby brothers or sisters together.
  • Go through his own baby pictures and talk about what he was doing in them.
  • Let him help come up with names for the new baby.
  • Let him listen to the baby’s heartbeat at a visit to the doctor or midwife.
  • Visit friends who have new babies.
  • Your older child may want details about where the baby came from, how it got in your tummy and how it will get out. If you don’t know where to begin, there are many books about pregnancy and childbirth, written for various age groups in terms your child will understand. 
  • You can pave the way for your children’s relationship by telling your older child that the new baby will have its own thoughts and feelings.
  • Encourage your child’s friendships – one study found that when children have a close playmate it helps them interact with younger siblings.
  • If family and friends are bringing gifts for the new baby, suggest they also bring something small for your other child so he feels included.
  • If you are planning a hospital birth, explain to your child where you are going and that you will be home again soon after the baby is born.
  • Organise for your older child to be cared for by someone he feels comfortable with when you go into labour. And try to arrange for as few disruptions to his schedule as possible when you’re in hospital. This will help your older child to feel secure.

Grandparents

If your parents are part of your life, they might be almost as excited as you are about the new addition to their extended family, even more so if this is a first grandchild. Their joy for your pregnancy can be very supportive and can help you get ready for being a parent.

At the same time, grandparents might feel unsure about where they will fit into your new family.

  • They may have concerns about their growing frailty and how they will interact with their new grandchild.
  • They may worry about being expected to provide childcare when they feel unwilling or unable to help.
  • It’s equally possible they’ll worry that you won’t want them around or seek their involvement as much as they’d like.
  • They may feel too young to be grandparents!

Spending time with your other family members, including parents, to help them understand where they will fit in after the new baby is born is a good investment. Issues that you might want to talk about include:

  • how often they will visit you and vice versa
  • whether they can babysit occasionally so you and your partner can have time alone together.
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  • Last Updated 05-05-2006
  • Last Reviewed 05-05-2006
  • Kramer, L., & Gottman, J.M. (1992). Becoming  a sibling: With a little help from my friends. Developmental Psychology, 28(4), 685-699.

    Kramer, L., & Ramsburg, D. (2002). Advice given to parents on welcoming a second child: A critical review. Family Relations, 51(1), 2-14.