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When and how to tell your child you’re pregnant

When should I tell my child I’m pregnant?

Most experts recommend waiting until your pregnancy is well established — that is, sometime after your first trimester when the risk of miscarriage declines. If you’re having prenatal screening tests, you may want to wait until you get the results from those tests to tell your child you’re pregnant.

It’s also a good idea to wait until you’re starting to show. Your child may have a hard time imagining that there’s a baby growing inside you if your body still looks the same. She’ll be able to see what you’re talking about once you have a little bump.

You’ll probably want to let your child know at about the same time you announce your pregnancy to the rest of the world. Once you’ve told her, she’ll want to share the news (and you don’t want to have to ask your child to keep a secret).

And once you’ve told all your friends and family, it’ll be much harder to keep the information from your child. People will want to congratulate you and talk about the pregnancy. It’s best if she hears about a new sibling from you and not from the neighbors.

If you have to explain why you’re nauseated, achy, or fatigued before you’re ready to announce the pregnancy. It’s fine to just tell your child that you’re tired or not feeling well. In any case, it’s better not to attribute your symptoms to the pregnancy, so your child doesn’t blame the new baby for Mom feeling bad or not being able to play.

When you’re ready to tell, choose a time to talk about it when your child is relaxed and not dealing with any other stressful changes, such as starting school or getting over a cold. Find a calm period when your child will have time to process the news and ask questions — avoid transition times like bedtime or before school. If possible, have both parents there.

What if I have a miscarriage after I’ve told?

In the unlikely event that you lose the pregnancy, you can explain to your child that this baby wasn’t able to grow big enough to be born and later on you might try to grow a baby again.

It’s fine if she sees you crying a little or looking sad. She may also express sadness or confusion, which is normal. You can help her manage her feelings by listening to her and taking care of yourself emotionally and physically so that she can see you feeling better.

How should I break the news?

Weeks before you tell your child about the pregnancy, it’s a good idea to start laying the groundwork. You might want to start reading her some of the many children’s books about siblings. Or you might talk about some of your child’s friends and their little siblings and then say, “Someday you may have a little brother or sister, too.”

Children love to hear about what their parents were like when they were little. You might tell them about how you felt about your siblings when you were a child: “When my mom and dad first brought my brother home, I wasn’t too sure about it. But then I was happy to have someone to play with.” (Make something up if you don’t remember and keep it generally positive.)

When you’re ready to tell your child about the pregnancy, keep the language positive, simple, and straightforward. For example, “Right now, there’s a baby growing in Mommy’s tummy. You are going to have a little sister (or brother) next spring.”

Keep in mind that your child may not understand how long it will take for the baby to arrive. You can associate the time of the birth with something that’s familiar to her, such as the season or a holiday or some other event, but she may not fully understand the pregnancy timeline.

How is she likely to react?

Your child may not have much of a reaction to the initial announcement or she may be quite excited or a little anxious. If she’s excited, you may want to suggest that she be the one to tell Grandma and Grandpa or some other important person. Even if that person already knows about the pregnancy, your child will feel like she has an important role in letting the rest of the world know about her new sibling.

If your child seems confused or upset about your news, say “It looks like you’re feeling confused or upset. Do you want to tell me about your feelings?”

Let her know that sometimes people feel both happy and sad about having a baby. If you accept your child’s difficult feelings, it will be much easier for her to discover that she also has excited feelings.

After that, let your child decide how much more information she wants. You don’t need to overload her with facts if she’s not interested.

But be prepared for her to ask how the baby got in there.

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