The parental headache of sibling rivalry begins in childhood. It can carry far beyond those formative years and into adulthood with all kinds of problems years down the road, such as who gets to spend family holidays with the parents each year, family wars over parental estates and decades of competition over who is more successful.
The way to combat against sibling rivalry is to deal with it head on before your second child is even born. You head off the issue before it even begins, by helping them form loving and supportive relationships rather than competitive based relationships.
Helping children forage relationships that are unstoppable rivers of love and support is possible. Every parent dreams of their children having life long lasting relationships that are the greatest support system for one another. The reality is that this can happen, but parents must help facilitate these relationships early on and help the children build love, support, and comradery that can last for a lifetime.
Here are the top 10 tips on thwarting sibling rivalry and instead create loving sibling relationships.
1. Create a positive relationship before the second child is even born
If you had a pet before your first child was born, you probably recall worrying about how your pet would react to the baby. You may have even googled how to best help your dog or cat prepare for the baby to come.
We owned two dogs before our first child was born. I actually bought a book on how to prepare the pet for the new baby. I recall one tip was to have a blanket that the baby used at the hospital to be brought home for the dog to sniff and lay it in the dog’s bed, so the dog can become familiar with the new scent. We actually did this.
When a new sibling is on the way, we need to do more than simply wish and hope that they love the new baby and don’t develop a jealousy complex. Deal with the issue before it even begins. There are some practical ways that you can help your child prepare for their new sibling so that they feel they are part of the process. You want the current child to welcome the new baby so warmly that they feel that the baby is theirs in a way that makes them want to be protective and caring for the new life that is coming into your home soon.
Here are some of those practical tips:
Help the child feel a part ownership of the new baby, much like you do as parents
Refer to baby as “our baby” or even “your baby”. We did this with our daughter when we were expecting our twins. She wasn’t quite two years old when they were born and now at six years old she still refers to the twins as hers. It was quite effective in helping her accept them from the start, because they were her babies, not just Mommy or Daddy’s babies.
Include the child in the physical process
Let your child touch your belly to feel the baby inside you. Also allow the child to go to ultrasounds where they can see the baby on a screen. It becomes more real and you can create excitement in this experience you have together.
Get some siblings books
Go to the library or shop for children’s books on the topic of babies and having a new sibling. These can help the child learn more about what Mommy is experiencing, as well as an explanation of what it will be like to have a new baby in the home after they are born.
Allow them to get involved in choosing names
If they’re old enough, ask for their suggestions, talk about the names you are narrowing it down to, and discuss these things as a family. What a powerful thing for a child to have been a part of the process of naming their new brother or sister! Again, it helps create a sense of ownership with their new sibling on the way.
Get them involved in preparing stuff for the baby
Allow the child to be a part of creating the nursery, or picking out toys and clothes for the new baby. The more you include them in this process, the more they are going to feel that they are a part of this baby’s new life and feel an ownership or responsibility toward the baby.
Talk with them about their feelings
It is normal to feel some apprehension or even jealousy. The parental attention is shifting. Babies require a lot of attention. This is why you want to include them in on everything as much as possible. That way they aren’t feel left out and ignored. Their feelings should be expressed in a healthy manner, so having a conversation on their eye level and allowing them to say what they are feeling is very important.
Make the child a helper and a part of everyday activities when the baby arrives
This way they are not separated from the baby and the new experiences that Mom and Dad are having. Instead they are “Second Mommy” as my daughter referred to herself after our twins were born. They were “her twins”, so she wanted to help change them, feed them, rock them, and entertain them.
Of course when young kids are trying to help, their “help” can create more work for the parents at times, but that’s ok. You are supporting good helper attitudes and behaviors that facilitate them connecting with the baby and the activity surrounding the baby all day long.
This will also foster a positive start to their sibling relationship, as they learn early that they are supposed to help one another. Baby can’t help just yet, but will eventually become old enough to some day help older siblings too and you can remind your child of this fact as well.
2. Treat children equitably
This does not mean that you do things same for every child in the home. Each child is different and will want different things, but will also need different treatment at times. The key is to maintain a balance of fairness so that the level of attention and monetary spending in equal among all of the children over time. The term for this is equitable. The dictionary defines equitable as:
Characterized by equity or fairness; just and right; fair; reasonable: equitable treatment of all citizens.
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