An unplanned pregnancy can be a significant challenge at any stage of a woman’s life. And if you’re already a mom, you may face a unique set of concerns.
How can you help an older child prepare for a new sibling? How can you give each child the attention he or she needs? Will you have enough money to provide food, housing and other necessities for your growing family? What about making sure your kids get quality care and education services?
At Mosaic Pregnancy & Health Centers, we’re here to help with free pregnancy services and referrals to a number of generous agencies who can provide the resources you need.
Here are a few tips for meeting your family’s needs when you have more than one child to care for.
Telling Your Child about Your Pregnancy
The best time to tell an older child about your pregnancy depends on his or her age:
- If your child is age 2 or younger, they may not understand the concept of having a new brother or sister until they actually see the new baby after you’ve given birth.
- If your child is a preschooler, between 3 and 5, wait until a few weeks before your due date. Preschoolers may not understand having to wait several months to see this new brother or sister you keep talking about!
- For children older than 5, you can tell them about the new baby early in your pregnancy. Older kids may also be curious about where babies come from and how your baby is developing inside of you. At Mosaic, you can talk to us about age-appropriate ways to answer these questions.
Don’t be alarmed if your child becomes upset at first. Sometimes older kids fear that Mom won’t love them as much or spend any time with them after a new sibling arrives. Reassure your child that you still love him or her even as your family grows. Even though you will have to spend lots of time caring for your new baby, you’ll still be there for your older child as well.
Managing Your Time
Parenting is a big job, especially in a single-parent household. Here are some tips for juggling the responsibilities of multiple children, work or school and finding a little down time for yourself. Your daily schedule will also change as your kids grow and start attending school.
- Break it up. Instead of an endless to-do list, focus on just 3-5 priorities each day. A less-is-more approach will keep you from feeling burned out.
- Have a consistent routine. Young children do best when meal time, bed time, toothbrushing and other activites happen at the same time each day. Things may be a little less stressful for Mom too!
- Find balance. Plan a little one-on-one time with each child. This lets older kids know that you still love them after their new sibling arrives. Review your schedule to make sure you’re devoting the right amount of time to work, school, family activities and a little time for yourself, such as when your kids are visiting a grandparent or friend.
- Plan ahead. Once your kids start school, take a few minutes to fix their lunch before turning in for the night and let them pick out something to wear before going to bed.
- Let your kids help! Once they’re old enough, assigning chores to your children teaches personal responsibility and gives them a sense of pride. For toddlers, start with simple habits like putting toys away when finished with them. Preschoolers can help with light cleaning and setting the table, and older kids can start learning to cook and do other chores as they mature.
If you’re concerned about the cost of necessities for you and your children, the good news is there are several local agencies ready and willing to help you. These are just a few of the many organizations you can reach out to.
- Find affordable housing. If you and your children need temporary emergency housing, contact one of the following agencies:
- Angel’s Cove, Mt. Vernon: 800‐458‐BABY
- Fontebella Maternity Shelter, O’Fallon: 406-4355
- Our Lady’s Inn, St. Louis: 314-351-4590
- Phoenix Crisis Center, Granite City: 451-1008
- Salvation Army, Granite City: 451-7957
- Salvation Army, Alton: 465-7764
- Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, Bridgeton: 314-739-6811
- The Sparrow’s Nest, O’Fallon, MO: 636-336-2534
- Safe Families for Children: 314-452-6547
Finding permanent housing will provide more stability for you and your children. Here are some organizations who can help you:
- Catholic Charities Housing Resource Center: 314‐802‐5444
- Madison County Housing Authority, Collinsville: 345-5142 or 5144
- Public Aid, Granite City: 877-9200
- Terra Properties, Highland, Troy: 654-7033
- St. Clair County Housing Authority: 277-3290
- Get help with bills. Even if you already have a place to live, you may sometimes have trouble covering all of your expenses, such as food, transportation and utilities. If you’re having trouble meeting all of your needs, here are some organizations that can help with material resources:
- WIC & Healthy Moms/Healthy Kids, Granite City: 877-3433
- WIC & Healthy Moms/Healthy Kids, Belleville: 233-6175, then press 5
- St. Clair County Public Aid Office, East St. Louis: 583-2300
- Madison County Public Aid Office, Granite City: 877-9200
- CHASI (Government Funded Babysitting): 800-847-6770, ext. 390
- All Kids (Health Insurance for Illinois children): Visit www.allkids.com or call 866‐255-5437
- DCFS, Granite City: 876‐8985
- Healthy Start/Mother & Child Center, Centreville: 332-3509
- East Side Health District: 874-4713
- Grandma’s Attic, Maryville: 345-9693
- Goodwill, Glen Carbon: 656-0180
- Goodwill, Belleville: 234-3820
- Salvation Army Thrift Store, Granite City: 876-9150
- Beacon of Belleville: 222-8842
- Call for Help Inc., East St. Louis: 397-0968
- National Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support, Anderson Hospital (Nationalshare.org): 391-5984
- Ultrasound Zone, Glen Carbon (3D/4D/gender determination ultrasounds, cost varies): 288-3315
- Charity Home, Belleville (Crisis Management, Mentoring & Education): 300-0771
- The Baby Bank (referral from community agency required), Granite City: 444-3077
- Community Free Store (last Tuesday of the month 2-5:30), Granite City: 709-0713
- Belleville Christian Center, Belleville: 235-1643
- Community Care Center, Granite City: 876-8770
- Community Hope Center, Cottage Hills: 259-0959
- Crisis Food Center, Alton: 462-8201
- Maryville Outreach Center, Maryville: 345-9693
- Operation Blessing (Wood River clients only), Wood River: 251-5683
- Pregnancy Care Center, Belleville (clothing up to 5 yrs old): 233-2273”
- Increase your income. If you currently have a job, learn about opportunities for a promotion or higher paying jobs you might qualify for. Completing your education is another worthwhile investment that will also increase your earning potential.
- Make a plan to pay off debts. If you owe money on student loans, credit cards or other forms of debt, paying them off will put you on a better financial footing. If you’re having trouble making the minimum payments, ask about a more affordable payment plan. If you once shared a joint credit card with an ex-husband or boyfriend, have him move his share of the debt to his own individual account. That way you will no longer be responsible for his debts.
- Save money if possible. If you are able to increase your income, set aside anything left over after paying for necessities. It’s okay to start small — every little bit helps! Set aside a small budget for birthdays and holidays, and try to build an emergency fund for unexpected expenses such as car repairs. If you have a job, find out if your employer offers a retirement savings plan. You can also ask a local bank about special savings plans that will help with tuition if your kids attend college someday.
Finding Childcare and Early Education
You may have family members, friends or neighbors willing and able to care for your children while you’re at work or school. You can also check with local churches and community organizations for child care services. Here are a few more resources to help you find and pay for care for your kids.
- State assistance. Find out if your state offers help with the cost of child care. If you qualify, you may pay for child care on a sliding scale based on your income, with your share of the cost going up as your income rises.
- Head Start. This federal program provides education that prepares your children to start kindergarten by age 5, along with health, nutrition and social services. Early Head Start serves pregnant women and children up to age 3, and Head Start is for preschoolers ages 3-5.
- Pre-Kindergarten. Some states offer free pre-kindergarten when your children reach ages 3-4. The program offers a curriculum to prepare your kids for kindergarten, and typically lasts between 2 ½ and 6 hours on weekdays. Contact your local public school district to learn about pre-k programs near you.
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The Federal Government provides grants to states to assist families with basic necessities, including child care. If you qualify for TANF benefits you may also receive help with child care expenses.
- Child and Dependent Care Credit. This tax credit may cover up to 35% of qualifying child care expenses, depending on your income. You can file for this credit when completing your tax returns in the spring.
- Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account. If you have a job, find out if your employer offers this benefit. Some companies let you set aside up to $5,000 per year to cover the cost of child care, preschool or after school activities for your kids. This benefit will also help you pay less taxes in the spring!
- Child support. Your children’s father may owe payments to help with the cost of care. If he fails to make payments, you may contact your local Child Support Enforcement Agency to help you collect the proper amount.
If you’re dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and you already have kids, please reach out to Mosaic for free pregnancy testing, counseling and other services.
We’re here to help you prepare for the birth of your new baby while also meeting the needs of your whole family as your children grow.