When you’re expecting a new baby, it’s an emotional time for the whole family. Telling your older child is a critical first step in the transition—and it often comes with plenty of emotional transitions of its own.
Whatever they’re feeling, psychologists advise that one of the best ways to navigate the process is by proactively making them feel included.1 One of the best gestures for doing so is thinking of a safe and special way to share your pregnancy and hold space for them as they process the news.
Below, we share our favorite ideas for how to tell older kids about pregnancy, plus psychologists’ recommendations on how to make your older sib-to-be feel seen, heard, and held.
How Do Children Handle News of a New Sibling?
If you’re wondering how to prepare for a baby with older siblings, you’ll want to start with how to announce the pregnancy to them. There’s no one right way for kids to react to the news that they’re getting a brother or sister. Some kids are elated to learn they’ll have an opportunity to “play parent”; others may appear indifferent until the baby arrives.
When you initially tell them the good news, kids may:
- Ask lots of questions
- Appear disinterested
- Seem scared or worried
- Change their mind about how they feel
Typically, a child’s response to the news that their family is growing changes and evolves over time. This is why, as a parent, it’s so important to communicate that you are a safe “container” for their feelings. Most kids will need ample space and time to move through any complex feelings they’re having.2
When Should I Tell My Child They’re Getting a Sibling?
Age is one of the most important factors to consider when deciding when to tell your child about your pregnancy. While you’ll probably want to include them early on, here’s how to decide when to break the baby announcement news according to a child’s level of development:
- Ages 3 & younger –For very small children, the reality of having a sibling isn’t going to seem real until there’s actually a brand new little person in the house. In this case, experts suggest waiting until the expecting parent’s tummy has started to show (around the 12-week mark).2 Figuring out how to prepare your toddler for a new baby can be challenging, but being able to see your baby bump may help them grasp what you’re telling them.
- Ages 3 to 5 – For older kids with more sophisticated communication skills, it’s safest to share the news sooner rather than later so they have plenty of time to adjust. At this stage, they may already have been around babies in daycare or in playgroups. This might give them a better idea of what a new baby is like.
Be advised that 3- to 5-year-olds are more likely to pepper you with questions about where the baby came from and what happens as it grows. Just don’t expect them to keep it a secret! Preschoolers have a tendency to spread the word to everyone they know (strangers and the mail carrier included).
- Ages 5 & older –School-age kids have the most understanding about what a new sibling will mean. Expect them to have concerns about sharing your attention, their toys, and their home when they take in the big news.
For this reason, it’s best to involve older children in the pregnancy early on. When you tell them about the baby, let them know they’ll be an important part of getting ready for the new family member. You can include them in the process by asking them to help pick out baby clothes and toys, decorate the nursery, and discuss baby names.
If they're old enough, you can perhaps even try getting them involved in fun activities like planning your baby shower. Regardless, connecting with kids is important at this stage so they feel comfortable with the changes coming.
5 Ways to Tell Young Kids You’re Pregnant
The right time to tell your child about your pregnancy depends on factors like their age, personality, and developmental level. As for the right way, there are a few guidelines to stick to as you share the pregnancy announcement with support and compassion:
- Make it a private moment – However you choose to loop in your child, be sure it’s done in a safe and private space. Breaking the news when you only have a few minutes or right before bedtime could cause anxiety or disruption.
Similarly, keep phones out of the discussion and avoid recording the moment to share on social media. You can always involve your child in planning a fun announcement for family and friends later, but make this a conversation that’s just about them.
- Be open to whatever they feel – Your child may be thrilled to welcome a new baby. But they may also feel scared, sad, mad—or all of the above. They may react quietly, or even seem uninterested. Take some time to talk about how much they mean to you and how excited you are for them to become a big brother or sister.
- Expect questions – Kids are naturally curious, so don’t be surprised if your child wants to know everything from where the baby came from to how it’s getting out! There’s no need to dig into a lengthy birds-and-bees talk, but do your best to answer their questions honestly and simply to avoid overwhelming them.
Finally, remember that it’s completely normal to feel excited about your growing family, even if your older child is cycling through difficult emotions of their own. Sharing the news in a way your unique child will love is just one way to demonstrate how much you love them—and that you’ll be there to help process their feelings every step of the way.
With that being said, here are some pregnancy announcement ideas that an older sibling may be excited about.
#1 Make a Big SiblingBook Together
If you're looking for a big sister or big brother pregnancy announcement, creating a book together might be a fun idea to get them involved. Creating a scrapbook or photo album about becoming a big sibling and how important it iswith your older child is a wonderful way to show them how valued they are. It’s also an opportunity to teach and excite them about what it means to have a baby on the way.
While you’re crafting, you can try:
- Including pictures of activities your older child can look forward to with your newborn
- Spend time talking about big sibling responsibilities
- Let them ask plenty of questions as you look through the scrapbook together
- Let them take the lead by allowing space for them to draw, color, and add decorations
#2 Plan a “Big Kid” Day
Another fun way to share the big news and include an older sibling is to plan a day for them. Plan an outing for your older child such as going to a movie, a mini-golf course, or their favorite ice cream parlor. Be sure to share the news at home first, then head out for your special day.
You can use this as a time to:
- Allow them to ask as many (or as few) questions as they like
- Let them know that spending time together is always going to be important to you
- Point out that you and your older child can share activities the new baby won’t be ready for until they’re much bigger
#3 Let Them Explore the News with Baby Dolls
Playing with snugglers or baby dolls can be an excellent way to show younger children how the new baby will fit into the family dynamic.2You can even make it more special by wrapping it up and surprising them with it as a gift.
To start, try different family bonding activities like acting out family scenes between dolls to show your child how new babies are loved and nurtured by the whole family. This kind of play is an outlet for your child to express feelings of worry or jealousy openly. Watch for opportunities to show the “parent” stuffed animal or doll caring for both the older child and the baby.
#4 Share Books About Babies
Picture books are one of the best ways to help kids process their feelings about a new sibling. Whether you gift your child a picture book or borrow some from your local library, a wide variety of books can promote learning about babies and pregnancy:
- Nonfiction – Look for age-appropriate books that present simple, factual answers to your child’s questions about pregnancy and birth.
- Fiction – Share story books about becoming an older sibling and what it’s like to have a new baby in the family.
- Independent reading – For older kids, you might provide books they can read on their own. This lets them think things over in their own time and come to you with questions.
#5 Meet and Greet A Real Baby
If you have a friend or family member with a baby, take your child for a visit so they can interact with a baby firsthand. Research shows that social support is one of the most important factors in helping older children adjust to new siblings. This is also a nice way to get your wider network involved in supporting your older child.3
Don’t have any babies around to make an introduction? You can also try visiting a farm or zoo. Watching animals with their young lets kids see that new babies are a natural (and cute!) part of life. Plus, you can talk with your child about how much animal siblings depend on each other as they grow and learn.
Connect with Big Sibs-To-Be with Slumberkins
A baby announcement is quite exciting news you’ll share with your family, but older siblings may not receive it well. There is no one perfect way for telling older kids about pregnancy, but there are resources for encouraging your children during this big leap forward.
Slumberkins books and plushies were created to help kids build resilience and courage amid the fluxes and flows of life. Whether you want to teach your child about handling change or expressing tough feelings, books, comforting characters, and daily affirmations from the world of Slumberkins help them feel supported while they get ready to be an amazing older sibling.
- "Family Dynamics" Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/family-dynamics/sibling-relationships
- Garey, Juliann. "Preparing your child for a new sibling." Child Mind Institute. https://childmind.org/article/preparing-child-new-sibling/
- Volling, Brenda L. “Family transitions following the birth of a sibling: an empirical review of changes in the firstborn's adjustment.” Psychological bulletin vol. 138,3 (2012): 497-528. doi:10.1037/a0026921
- "Child regression: Child regression: What it is and how you can support your little one." Unicef. https://www.unicef.org/parenting/child-development/what-is-childhood-regression