Putting a Stop to Sibling Rivalry

The night I was in labor with my second child, I remember writing a letter to my oldest child apologizing for bringing another baby into our family. As many second time moms do, I worried about being able to share my love with more than child. I also worried about establishing the right relationship between siblings. I had heard horror stories about sibling rivalry and the fear that this would somehow enter my family scared me. What I soon learned however was that the gift of a brother or sister can be the greatest gift you give your child. The relationship that two siblings share with each other is like no other and resides on a level apart from the parent-child relationship. Setting the foundation for sibling bonding rather than sibling rivalry begins long before the baby arrives and continues well into young adulthood. Here are a few tips toward avoiding sibling rivalry.

Involve the big sister or big brother in your pregnancy and preparation for the birth of your baby. Explain the stages of pregnancy and celebrate the milestones in development of both your children along the way. For instance, in month 6 when the baby begins to move share it with your child but at the same time, mark the month by also focusing on a recent achievement he/she has obtained. The baby is moving in the same month that big brother learned to ride his bike.

Ask family and friends to recognize existing children when it’s time for shower and homecoming gifts. This small gesture will go a long way to avoiding hurt and resentful feelings in older siblings.

Once the new baby is home, allow older siblings to help in the caring for their little brother or sister. Even toddlers can stack diapers or gently push the baby swing.

Carve out individual time for each child in the family. This can be as simple as special bedtime routine with mom to an hour alone in the park with dad. Remember it goes a long way with all age children to look them in the eye when speaking or listening to them. It makes them feel truly connected with you. Take time during baby’s nap time to connect with older siblings rather than catching up on housework.

Never compare your children with each other. Nothing creates ill feelings between siblings like resentment or jealousy. Refrain from using expressions like, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” or “You are my favorite son”. Instead celebrate the uniqueness of each of your children. If one child is a good artist ask him to share his talents with the family by designing your holiday card or if another is a good cook request that she make dessert one night.

Create projects around your home that allow siblings to work together toward a common goal. You may ask your teenagers to rearrange the basement or entertainment room or allow them to jointly cook dinner for mom and dad one night. It’s never too early to develop a strong support system between siblings. At an early age, you can develop games of competition between parents and children such as who can sort the laundry into colors and whites the quickest, table-setting relays or raking races. The more brothers and sisters learn to work together the less they will want to compete against each other.

Never take sides in sibling conflicts. No matter how strong the bond between siblings, a fight is likely to break out at some point. It’s actually healthy and allows your child to learn conflict resolution. It’s important however to allow your children to work out their differences between themselves. It’s okay to give some suggests for comprise if you feel the need to influence the outcome however you should never takes sides and pit one child against the other.

Lead by example. Talk about your own relationships with your siblings through stories, pictures and videos. Speak to the love you have for your sisters or brothers and the ways in which they have touched your life. If your relationships with your adult siblings are estranged recount happier childhood experiences or point out pop culture siblings that mirror the relationship you would like your own children to possess.

Brothers and sisters can be an extension of your love for your child that will impact their life long after you are gone. A sibling gives you another human being to share your childhood with and later recount all the moments of growing up in your unique family. It’s a person with whom they will share smiles, laughter, tears and fears and hopefully the desire to create their own sibling relationships with generations to come. With a little bit of effort, you can set the foundation for your children.

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