So what should you tell your older kids about your new pregnancy? Well, that depends on the child, says Jodi Stoner, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and co-author of Good Manners are Contagious (Spinner Press 2009). "There's no one guide that is the right guide for every child to introduce the good news of your pregnancy," she says.
For toddlers, Dr. Stoner recommends waiting until kids can see your belly and feel the baby move, as they have a hard time conceptualizing a pregnancy they can't see. School-age children have a better understanding and can be told sooner.
How much you involve your kids depends not only on the child, but also on the pregnancy. In a normal pregnancy with no concerns, very young children might be able to accompany mom to an ultrasound. But if there are any concerns about the situation, then you may need to think twice, cautions Alan Greene, M.D., pediatrician and author a half-dozen books, most recently, Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care (Jossey-Bass 2007).
When you do include children, it's important to remember that "kids can be worried about losing their place in the family. So if you're bringing them to an appointment, set it up as, "you and I are part of a team' rather than, 'this is about me and my baby,'" says Dr. Greene.
Different kids will have different reactions to your news -- and that's normal. One child might be excited, another might copy you with a pillow under her shirt. Kids might have a million questions -- or withdraw completely. "There are no right or wrong reactions," says Dr. Stoner. "They're just different."
You should also let kids know that it's normal to have mixed feelings -- or even to feel strongly that they don't love the baby yet. Reassure them that they will probably come to love the baby after it's born, and that bonding happens over time.
Taking kids along to an ultrasound can help start the bonding process -- but don't force a child who doesn't want to come. If you do take a child along, be sure to look at some ultrasound pictures online ahead of time, so that your child is prepared for what he will -- and won't -- see, advises Dr. Greene.
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