Siblings photo

The arrival of a new child brings many changes with it. As parents, you’re excited of course, but chances are, your older kids might not feel the same way. This happy time in your life is often the beginning of sibling rivalry. Employ these strategies to help nurture a healthy, loving relationship among your children.

Every parent dreams of having their kids as each others’ best friends: You picture them sharing toys, wearing matching outfits, and sleeping next to each other. However, when you’re raising three or more kids, group dynamics become complicated. You’re dealing with three different personalities and temperaments. There’ll be jealousy and resentment. Sibling rivalry may become inevitable. Having a new baby, for example, can create an emotional crisis for the older siblings.

During this time, your older kids are still very attached to you and feel threatened when someone gets your attention more than them1. Moreover, they are sensitive to changes and often resort to childish behavior. This includes throwing tantrums and acting aggressively towards a new child. This transition, therefore, should be approached with compassion and empathy so no one feels left out.

The following are some strategies you can use to help your older kids ease into being a big brother or sister: 

  1. Acknowledge their feelings
    First, try to understand where your older children are coming from. Recognize that it’s natural for them to feel such emotions. Try to avoid scolding them when they act out, and instead, let them express why they’re angry or misbehaving. Most of the time, these actions are just a result of big feelings that they don’t quite understand yet, such as jealousy2. Have a sit-down and talk to your child. Who knows? You might be missing out on something and that’s why they’re behaving in a certain way. By simply acknowledging their emotions, you’re letting your kids know that they won’t ever need to bury or suppress their feelings from you.
     
  2. Differentiate equality from being fair
    Most sibling rivalries are often triggered by jealousy or resentment. Your older kids are probably used to your undivided attention and that all changed when a new child arrives. They might feel neglected because their routines suddenly changed. 
    Teach them that being fair is not the same as being treated equally. It’s important that you make them understand that older and younger kids may have different needs and privileges due to their age3. For example, it’s only fair that older kids have more responsibilities and younger children need more attention to ensure their safety. Reassure them that you’ll try to meet their individual needs and you’ll love them all equally.
     
  3. Recruit their help
    It is understandable that you will have to pay more attention to your new child. To prevent sibling rivalry, why not enlist their help with some tasks? Ask the older kids to fetch diapers or bottles for you. They can also help in dressing or bathing their youngest sibling while supervised. Don’t forget to recognize their hard work as well. This will help them feel needed, and they will surely be proud of being trusted with big responsibilities.
     
  4. Stick to their routine
    While it’s difficult to maintain the same routine with the arrival of the new child, try not to make sudden changes to your other kids’ schedules. This will only upset them, or it may trigger sibling rivalry. For example, if you usually pick them up from school, be there even after the arrival of the new child. If you do need to make changes, talk to them first and explain why it needs to be done. The key is to gradually help them adjust to the fact that there’s another individual whose needs should also be addressed.
     
  5. Give them space
    Sure, siblings should spend time together, especially when there’s a new child in the family. However, your older kids also need time for themselves, time with you, and time with their friends. If they want to spend the day coloring or reading books, let them be. Don’t force them to hang out with their new brother or sister. Sibling bonds should come naturally. 

Arrange a few playdates with kids from their school. You may also schedule one-on-one bonding time with each of your children. Do whatever they enjoy the most so that they won’t feel neglected.

It’s normal for older siblings to feel jealous with the arrival of a new child. Be patient and try to understand why they might be feeling this way. Be present and make them feel they’re in no way less loved. Soon enough, they’ll learn to warm up to the newest member of the family and take on the role of a big brother or sister.

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References:

1 How to Prepare Your Older Children for a New Baby (n.d.). Retrieved 3, 2020 from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/prenatal/Pages/Preparing-Your-Family-for-a-New-Baby.aspx
2 Dealing with challenging behaviour when a new baby arrives (n.d.). Retrieved 3, 2020 from https://www.familylives.org.uk/advice/early-years-development/behaviour/dealing-with-challenging-behaviour-when-a-new-baby-arrives/
3 Sibling Rivalry (n.d.). Retrieved 3, 2020 from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/sibling-rivalry.html