Teaching young children about pregnancy & preparing them for a sibling

Well Curly Girl has been very interested in the pregnancy this time around, asking many questions and highly interested in all things pregnancy. Of course, like a good homeschool mum does, I have taken the liberty of incorporating this curiousity into our lessons over the weeks. We have done colouring in sheets, hired out library books like these ones (which was good for Curly Boy too, who is 3).

 and also had various talks about pregnancy. We have also sat down weekly and watched the mini-videos on the progress of the baby from my pregnancy apps such as Babycenter, along with reading the progress reports from other apps like Ovia Pregnancy, I'm expecting and baby bump pro.

It has been delightful to see Curly Girl retain the information well. She understands the function of the uterus, placenta, umbilical cord and amniotic fluid and can now point them out on a diagram. She was fascinated with all of this... and why wouldnt she be! A child developing in the womb is nothing short of a miracle! A true gift from God!

Here are links to a few of the simple pages we have used for colouring in/learning about babies in utero:

colouring in - names of parts that support a baby in utero
Stages of baby growth
colour in cartoon baby in womb for toddlers
colour in pregnant family for toddlers

It has been really nice to have my 5 year old enjoy this pregnancy. She felt her first kicks recently, and the light in her eyes was just beautiful! I have been very honest with her about when the baby comes. She is old enough to understand that with life comes change, and I have explained to her that when the baby comes, I will be very busy with him. More than usual I will not be able to just come and do whatever tickles her fancy. But I have also discussed with her that this is temporary, it wont be that way forever and it will get easier and easier. I think at her age, it is important for her to be prepared for that. She had a baby brother when she was three years old. But it was different. At that age you cannot explain these things to them so you just run with it as it happens, try to involve them as much as possible (they can become "mummy's little helper and so on, fetching a nappy or similar). She enjoyed it as we always made sure she was involved and that when bub had his naps, she got some special one on one time with mummy. This time around, she will be 6 years old when her second brother is born, and much more aware of what to expect. She is a keen and willing little thing. She is excited and for that attitude, I am very greatful!

As far as the pregnancy itself goes, I have not gone into how babies are made, as she has not asked and I personally feel it is too young to go there at this stage. Every parent needs to decide whats right for their child. My daughter is just too young. Plus, she hasn't asked. That alone is a good indication to me that its too early. The question of "How will the baby get out?" has come up. My answer, was simple. "Well when the baby gets too big to fit in my tummy any longer, and the time is right, I will feel sore in my tummy and will go to the hospital, and the midwives will help me get the baby out". She did not question the methods of how the midwives do it, (which surprised me greatly as she is usually extremely inquisitive and asks for details!) she was satisfied with the information given and so we left it at that, however if she were to ask me further, how does the baby get out though? I would be honest about the ways that a baby can exit. I feel that my 6 year old can handle that. So my advice to anyone wondering how they should handle these questions? Do NOT lie to your children. Under any circumstances. Stories about the stork, or God snapping his fingers and hip hip hooray here is the baby and so on? I believe children deserve the respect to be told the truth, or to be told just enough to satisfy their curiousity. So instead of lying, just keep it simple. The doctors get the baby out at the hospital. How does the baby get in there? Mummy and Daddy share a special time together and God blesses them with the baby. These are true statements, just very simplified, and somewhat vague...but enough to satisfy very young children, without fibbing to them.

Again, each parent knows when the time is right, each parent knows what their children can handle/process at what age. So we all have to use discernment and be prayerful about how we approach these questions and answers, I'm merely sharing how we have gone about it, and hope that it is helpful.

The real interest though that I have found for my pre-primary aged daughter, hasn't so much been in the how did it get there and how does it get out stuff, but the right now stuff. The fact that there is a living child within her mothers tummy is just fascinating to her. She has enjoyed books and each week asks "how big is the baby now" and we use the fruit comparisons, or I take a ruler and show her around about how big.

Now that I am 25 weeks pregnant, we have started talking about what it will be like when the baby is here. How things might change, for the good, and also, things that might be a little harder. We have sat and gone through fun thoughts like "what colour do you think babies eyes/hair will be?" or "do you think baby will come in the morning, afternoon or at night?" and also we are planning to make some things for the baby. I will be sewing him a little blanket, and she will be helping with that. Even making final choices of the fabric used. She will make him a little welcome to the family card. We have also read scriptures about family and the blessing that children are. It has all helped her to understand whats happening.

Lastly, I have been honest about the difficulties of pregnancy. I don't think it is necessary or healthy for a child to have their pregnant mother complain and carry on about all the ailments we may face whilst pregnant. Children do not need that burden in their lives. However there is no harm in being honest when you are just really tired. Or have a sore back, or are feeling dizzy. You do not have to hide that you are human! My 5 year old knows I suffer with bad back pain, and the reasons why related to pregnancy. It has helped her to understand why mummy cannot run around with her at the moment. It has also given her the opportunity to exercise the character trait of compassion. Care. Thoughtfulness. She has a few times now, seen my face change a bit and asked, "are you feeling okay mummy" and try to rub my back. or "Can I get you a warmie?" (a heat pack for my back). What a sweet gesture! So although I do not encourage you to sit there and carry on about how much your not enjoying your pregnancy right now (after all your kids, male or female will most likely have to deal with pregnancy themselves one day one way or the other and you don't want to frighten or put them off!) I do sincerely encourage you to be honest when your having a rough day. A simple "mummy feels very sick today, so I will need to rest more. Like when your sick and you want to lay down? Its a bit like that. But don't worry, I will be okay, I will feel better at some stage. But right now my body is busy making a baby in there and that can make mummies feel sick!" It's amazing what a little "realness" can do for young ones.

Our three year old son, does not fully understand the idea of pregnancy yet. He lifts up his shirt and exclaims that he has a baby in his tummy. He also pokes my chest and says "baby in there"... thinking that my breasts and belly all have the baby inside since they all stick out hahaha. So adorable, and also okay. This is a very young age where you cannot do much to make them understand. However you can also begin to prepare them too. We have given curly boy his sisters baby dolly, and showed him how you must be gentle with babies. He has pretended to feed the baby, wash the baby, not touch the babies head. He has learned that babies can cry alot. That they need alot of care, attention, gentleness and love. Through imaginative play he is coming to some basic comprehension that will help him with his new brother once he arrives.

Many mums worry about the jealousy factor. I cannot help you with this, as my daughter was not a bit jealous of her brother at any stage, and at this stage is also not jealous of this next one. Our son, may be different, but so far seems to be good. I feel that it has to do with how involved we try to make them, and how much they know they are loved, and how we place great value on family as a whole unit. In our home, your family comes first. Your best friends are your siblings and parents, and this is ingrained into them from very small, so when a new "best friend" comes along, it just flows! I am not saying that there haven't been hard moments. Or times where my daughter has practically hung off my foot and begged me to put the baby down haha, however its not done in an "I wish he wasnt here" manner, but more of a "I really love him but I need you right now" manner. So, I believe that prayer, and the way we raise our kids, has contributed greatly to the no jealousy issue. However, each child is different. Each personality reacts differently, and we have only had two children so far with this third on the way. Perhaps a larger family would have more wisdom, advice and experience on this particular issue, so I will leave it to them to expand on that. I am certainly not the authority on the jealousy issue. Just sharing my thoughts on what has worked for us in hopes that it helps someone!

The day I got home with Curly Girls little brother: Pure Joy!
So in conclusion, the way we have taught our kids about pregnancy, and a growing family, is just making it a part of every day life. Open discussion, imaginative play, and educating them with pictures to colour in, books to read and answering their questions at an age appropriate level. Even an 18 month year old can begin to learn to be gentle with babies. Starting off by being told there is a baby in mummys tummy, and to be gentle with the actual bump itself is a good start! Curly boy was calling my tummy a bouncy ball and whacking it at first... but with patient guidance has learned now to rub and pat gently, because there is a precious cargo inside. Children are very visual, so showing them a video or book with pictures of whats going on in your uterus will go down very well usually. Most of all, ENJOY the journey. Involve the kids. Talk about names for baby, let them help you set up the nursery in little ways. If you have a baby shower, have them there if you can.

Pregnancy is one amazing process and even very small children can come to a simple understanding of whats going on in there and what is to come. Never underestimate a little one's ability to learn about and enjoy your pregnancy. Just love on them, love on your bump and enjoy it!

How do you teach your children about pregnancy? What are ways you have found that work well to prepare your children for a new addition to the family? Please feel free to share in the comments your advice and input, I'd love to hear from you!


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