As expectant parents, you perhaps thought that the baby soon to be born would be all yours, alone. Not quite so, as you probably found out. If you have other children, they share proprietorship with you; they are, after all, of the same generation as their new sibling. When they all get older, you may have the feeling, as some parents do, that it’s “them against us.” Your own two sets of parents, and perhaps your grandparents as well, have a vested interest in your child, they are his ancestors. They probably feel qualified and perhaps duty-bound, to advise you about every aspect of your baby. Many other people will also speak to you about “our baby” and offer advice. Anyone that knows you and cares for you felt like a participant throughout the pregnancy and will continue to do so during the rearing of your child, including aunts, uncles, and cousins; old and new friends; neighbors; colleagues of work; and probably the checkout clerk at the supermarket and the teller at the bank. You even share your baby with your pet, whose function in life now is to be the companion and protector of the child.
Preparing Your Children for the New Baby
Ideally, you’d tell your toddler or preschooler that you are expecting a baby only a short time before your due date, because with his or her undeveloped concept of time, six months or more is too long to wait. However, you don’t want the child to hear from someone else, so you’ll probably share it about the time you’re telling everyone. For a young child, try to tie the coming birth with something other than a specific date: “about the time of your own birthday” or “when the leaves on the trees are getting green.” Older children who can handle the time lag can be told earlier, and a teenager can be told very soon after you know for sure yourself. Being first to know, even before Grandma, will give this older child the adult status that builds self esteem. Just don’t tell a child of any age until you’re ready for the whole world to now. That kind of secret is impossible to keep.
The ages of your children will also determine to a large extent how you answer the questions about reproduction which will inevitably follow your announcement. The most important thing to remember is to give a child only the amount of information he or she actually asks for and can handle. A toddler, for example, probably wants only to know and can take in no more than that “the baby is growing in a special place inside mommy and will come out when it’s big enough.” A bright preschooler or school age child is likely to insist on knowing all the details of the baby’s life “in there.” If you have a pre-teen or a teenager, your pregnancy gives you the golden opportunity to pass on something of your value system as you candidly discuss human sexuality, reproduction, and family life. With children of any age, use the correct terminology for body parts and functions. Any shyness or embarrassment you may feel about speaking frankly will wear off with repetition, and you will be doing your child a favor, because he or she won’t have to relearn the words. You may find it helpful to draw upon the vast number of excellent books available for parents and children on the subject of reproduction [and for little kids, what it’s like to have a baby brother or sister], many of which are designed to be read together. Your librarian or bookstore clerk can lead you to the best of what’s available. Be willing to answer questions whenever they’re asked. With young children, don’t be surprised to if you must repeat your answers several times.