If you or someone close to your family has just lost or terminated a pregnancy, you may be wondering what to tell your child.
Regardless of whether your child knew about the pregnancy, he’ll likely pick up on the fact that something’s wrong. Even if he doesn’t ask why you’re unhappy, your behavior affects him, so it’s important to acknowledge it. What you say depends on your child’s age and temperament, but no matter what, make sure he understands he’s not responsible for anything that has happened.
If your child is a preschooler and you hadn’t yet told him about the pregnancy, don’t feel compelled to tell him now. Explain that you’re feeling sad right now, but it has nothing to do with him. Reassure him that you love him and that you’ll be all right again. Give him plenty of hugs to demonstrate that your bond is still strong.
With a grade-schooler, you’ll need to take several things into account before deciding whether it makes sense to tell him about it now. On the one hand, he may not be emotionally mature enough to understand what happened, and the news may just be confusing and upsetting. On the other hand, he may be confused and upset if he knows you’re sad, but you don’t tell him why.
If you decide not to tell him what happened, it’s still important to acknowledge your grief. And be sure to give him the same reassurance you would give to a younger child.
Let her know what happened as soon as you can. She’ll realize that something has changed, but she may not have any idea what it was or how to ask about it.
“Suddenly, the grown-ups who were anticipating the arrival of a baby are sad and depressed, and the excited preparation for a baby has come to a halt,” says Michelle Barratt, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas.
But explanations can be tricky. Young children have a limited understanding of pregnancy and death, says Barratt. It can be difficult for them to comprehend the loss of a baby they’ve never seen.
Once you break the news to your child, she may not know how to react. She may mimic your behavior, regress, act out, have sleep disturbances, or become clingy, fearful, or distant. All of these reactions are normal.