Q&A: Telling My Toddler

Feb 22, 2015 | Practical Information, Q&A

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We found out at our prenatal ultrasound that our child has chromosomal abnormalities. Because of the poor prognosis for carrying to term and baby’s short life expectancy, my husband and I have decided to terminate the pregnancy.

While I overcome with sadness, my real issue is trying to explain ending the pregnancy to my three-year-old daughter. She is an intelligent and charismatic child who is very excited about having a sibling. She talks about her soon to be baby “sister” constantly, kisses and hugs my belly and reassures the baby that she loves her and will be the best big sister ever. This whole situation is breaking my heart.

How do I explain it to my daughter without breaking her heart?

We recently lost our beloved dog after a battle with cancer. While we explained it to her that the dog was sick and went to heaven, she never really asked us about the dog or heaven. Will she understand losing her sibling?

Any advice you can give me about explaining this difficult topic with my toddler will be very helpful.


I am so sorry you are going through this.

As with anything else, a small child should never be given more information than she can comprehend or is emotionally equipped to handle. I would discourage you from burdening your daughter with details of the baby’s abnormalities or demise. As much as she was excited about the idea of having a sibling, to her, at this stage, the baby is probably more of an abstract concept than a reality.

As long as you take care not to project your own grief onto your child or overburden her with adult information and sorrow, her authentic reaction will more likely be disappointment, rather than grief or fear. A three-year-old can handle information along the lines of, “the baby died, and mommy is disappointed and sad.”

If she sees you crying, reassure her that you are very glad she is your daughter and your sadness is about the baby and not her fault.

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