Planning a new baby in a blended family
If you’re thinking about having a baby with your partner, you might decide to tell your other children in advance that you’re thinking about having a baby one day. You might say something like, ‘You never know – some day we might have another baby’.
Or you might feel like you need some extra time for your family to settle in so you might not tell anyone for a while.
When you’re expecting a new baby: how other children might feel
A new baby in a blended family will be in a unique position – the baby will be the only person in the family who is biologically related to everyone.
Your other children might be excited when you tell them the new baby is coming. But it’s also normal for children in any family to feel upset, worried or insecure in this situation. Being in a blended family can add to these feelings.
Sometimes your other children in a blended family can also feel threatened by a baby because:
- the pregnancy is getting lots of attention
- they’re worried they’ll lose their special position as Mum or Dad’s ‘baby’ or as the ‘only child’
- they’re worried they’ll have less time or contact with their parent when they visit
- they’re worried about practicalities like where the baby will sleep and whether they’ll get to keep their bedroom
- the baby belongs to both of you and they feel insecure.
When you’re expecting a new baby: how you and your partner might feel
It’s normal to have a mix of feelings about a new baby – excitement, hope and concern about how your other children might react.
You and your partner might even feel differently about the baby, especially if one of you is a first-time parent. If this is your first baby, but your partner already has children, you might feel that your partner isn’t as excited as you. That’s normal – all couples go through different feelings and stages during pregnancy.
However you’re feeling, it’s important to support each other through the pregnancy and to talk about how you’ll prepare your other children for the baby’s arrival.
Preparing other children for the new baby
If you’re pregnant, how you prepare your other children for a new baby depends on you. Your children’s ages will also play a part.
It can be good to introduce the idea of a new baby fairly early in the pregnancy, perhaps at least three or four months before the baby is born.
It’s important to talk with your children about their concerns and reassure them. If they’re upset or angry about you having a new baby, hug them, reassure them and talk about the positives of expanding the family – for example, they’ll have a new brother or sister to play with.
Let them know there’s lots of time to get used to the idea.
It can also help to involve your children in planning and preparing for the baby in a way that interests them. If you can make this a positive and exciting time, your child is more likely to feel that the change is about everybody in the family, not just the new baby.
You can help your children feel involved by asking their opinions on things or getting them to help you choose some toys. Your children might like to be involved in experiencing the baby as it grows – for example, looking at ultrasound images or feeling the baby kick.
As you’re preparing together with your children, try not to overdo the excitement. And if you’re thinking about a special space or room for the baby, it’s important to make sure that your other children have similar spaces too. If they don’t, it’s a good idea to make the space you’re planning for the baby similar to what your other children have, or think about how your other children could also have special spaces.
I let my stepson paint a mural in the baby’s room. I’m not sure what his one-week-old sister made of the Transformers looming over her cot, but it’s the thought that counts.
– Belinda, 32, in a blended family with two children
After the new baby arrives: helping other children adjust
As a couple, you can do a lot to help your other children adjust when you bring your new baby home. Here are some ideas:
- If your children are jealous of the baby, try to accept their feelings. But you can also let them know that you expect them to behave in a safe way around the baby – for example, to be gentle with the baby.
- Look for ways to make all children feel special at different times – for example, on birthdays and when they achieve something, like a good grade at school.
- Keep the contact you have with your children and their routines consistent, especially in the early months. If you’re going to make changes to family routines, try to do it gradually.
- Show your children how they can play safely with the baby, or give older children small responsibilities like walking the baby around the garden in a pram. When children help out like this, congratulate them on being such a great big brother or sister.
- Tell grandparents and other adults like teachers the news and encourage them to give your other children extra attention and support if they’re finding it difficult.
As a step-parent, especially if this is your first child, you might find yourself withdrawing a little from your stepchildren as you become absorbed in the new baby. Try not to feel guilty about this. A few kind words or regular hugs each day will keep you and your stepchildren connected.
You former partner and extended family
Tell your former partner if you’re expecting a new baby. It’s much better if he or she hears it from you than from someone else. Your former partner might take a while to accept the news, even if you don’t think the news will cause hurt feelings.
Other family members might not react in the way you expect. For example, grandparents who have been very helpful with one set of grandchildren might feel worried they’re too old to cope with future ones. Just try to reassure them that they can be as involved as they like.