There’s something magical about the bond between siblings. Stronger than friends, they love each other with a passion, and hate with just the same intensity.
It’s not always enjoyable to be a parent of siblings, especially when they seem to be at war with each other. In a way it’s no surprise. Welcoming a new sibling into a family can be a time of great change and adjustment, and it’s very easy for your older children to feel undervalued or even completely ignored. Luckily, there are some simple ways you can avoid the worst of sibling rivalry, while still understanding that there’s nothing unusual about the behaviour.
1.Get Friendly Early
We understand that pregnancy and birth is a big topic to broach with your children, especially if they’re little, but it’s important that they’re as excited about their new sibling as you are. Get them involved in the process by showing them sonogram images, letting them pat your belly and talk or sing to the baby. You can make them familiar with the process by running through their own babyhood. Show them their own baby pictures, how they looked when they got back from hospital etc, so they know what’s coming.
2.Make Them Important Too
It’s so easy to feel undervalued when you’re little and don’t understand the situation, which is how most sibling rivalries take root. Avoid this in the early days by making your older children feel important as well. Encourage those bringing gifts for your new baby to also bring something for your older children, or keep some small things on hand to give them yourself. Let your older children unwrap new gifts, test them and so on. It also helps to give them a job, such as ‘mum’s helper’ to make sure they feel important and valued as well.
3.It’s All About ‘Special’
Parents struggling with sibling rivalry will get a lot of benefit from the word ‘special time’. Children have trouble dealing with younger siblings because they can very acutely feel the loss of a one-on-one relationship with mum. Work hard to maintain this relationship by setting aside some ‘special time’ with your older child at the start and end of each day, uninterrupted. Also, encourage other caregivers, like dad, uncles, aunties or grandparents, to spend ‘special time’ treating your older child to one-on-one activities and outings.
4.Use Time Smartly
Balancing time is one of the biggest challenges for parents when they have a new baby. That’s why it’s so important to balance out the time that you have between both children. Obviously new babies need a lot of time, but there are ways to make everyone happy. For example, keeping your little baby in a sling gives you two hands free to play with an older child. Likewise, feeding while sitting on the floor, or laying your new baby on a blanket, brings you closer to play with your toddler, and makes it easy for them to participate together.
5.Encourage Sibling Bonds
It might seem as though your children are always at war, but the truth is there’s no clear evidence to suggest siblings are born to be enemies. In fact, it’s parental behaviour that turns them to those actions most often. To avoid that, help your kids find constructive ways to be sensitive and loving with each other. Your role as a parent is a facilitator of sibling harmony, and you can shape their relationship well into the future. You can do this by encouraging older siblings to look out for younger ones, to comfort them when they’re hurt, to teach them a skill they know well, to work together with them towards a common goal, or even to entertain them. These actions help strengthen relationships, and thereby lessen sibling rivalry.