Here are some tips I've found that seem reasonable to me. Keep in mind that you always want to consider your child's (each child if you have more than one) age and personality.
When Do You Tell?
For many people, finding out your pregnant creates this uncontrollable urge to start shouting from the roof-tops. For a child, waiting five minutes for something is sometimes unbearable--can you imagine waiting (or worse yet, dreading) what was going to happen in 40 weeks? For very young children (under 3) I would recommend waiting as long as possible. For older children, I would also wait as long as possible; at least until you start showing.
How Do You Tell?
For very young children it could be difficult to express to them what you're talking about--you may want to mention that they'll get a little baby brother or sister etc. Maybe point out other babies and say that one day, you'll have one too. With older children, you can explain that they are going to be a big brother/sister just like their friends. Show them babies--make sure they are as close to newborn as possible.
Be as upbeat and positive about the news as possible. If your child is currently king of the hill, he/she will have no idea how having a sibling will affect his/her life. Chances are good, they like things status quo and would rather not change the great life they have going. If you look nervous, apprehensive, or worried, your child is going to pick up on that and use it against you like you couldn't imagine possible.
Don't do the standard, "you'll be big and can help change the diaper, feed, etc, etc." Maybe they don't WANT to do all that work. Imagine this: I'm a four year old boy and all I want to do is play with my cars and trucks. Now Mom comes in, tells me that there's someone new coming AND a whole bunch of work comes with him/her. THIS is not a sales pitch and really, not their responsibility. Your child wants to know that you're still going to be his/her Mommy--still take care of them, still care for them. A child has no interest in being a parent--they still want to be a kid; let them.
Some Other Fun Ideas
Have a Big Brother or Big Sister Party
When it comes close to the big day, have a party for your child. Make it a simple family type party and make sure it's all about them.
Call your local hospital (preferably where you'll deliver) and ask if they have a sibling class. The class is great for the older child; they get a tour of the hospital, nursery, and are taught how to hold babies etc. This would be a good time to explain that you'll have to stay at the hospital for a few days with the new babe. I always reinforce it with, "well, just like I did for you when you were born."
Get Out the Albums and Videos
Show your child pictures of yourself when you were pregnant with your child. Show them the newborn photos and videos. Make sure you make a fuss over their arrival and talk about all the things you did while waiting for them. Remember&emdash;they don't remember all the fuss; they were newborns.
Decorating the Room
Have your child help you decorate the new baby's room. My son had lots of fun putting up the letters spelling out his brother's name on his bedroom door. He also painted a little picture that to put up on the wall.
2003 Copyright, Claudine M. Jalajas