Sibling Rivalry: Pediatrician Recommended Tips

posted: 02/22/17
by: Katie Morton
two young chess players outdoors. boy rejoices won a game of chess. sad opponent covered his face, and upset losing

Sibling rivalry is a natural part of childhood. Your children may be the best of friends one minute, and mortal enemies the next. As your kids grow and hit different development stages at different times, their changing brains and bodies impact how they relate to one another. What can you do to keep the peace in your home, as well as preserve your sanity? Read on for pediatrician-recommended tips to help your kids get along.

Bringing Home Baby

Experts say that bringing a new baby home can be a challenging time for the older sibling. If you're struggling with this transition, know that you're not alone! Many kids aren't initially thrilled when they hear they're going to be a big brother or sister. Simply recognizing that this is a huge change for your older child can go a long way toward helping everyone cope.

1. Prep Your Older Child for the New Baby

There will certainly be speed bumps as you adjust to your growing family, but one of the best ways to get your older child on board is to prepare them ahead of time. You have nine long months of pregnancy to slowly acclimate your first-born to the notion of having to share their parents.

2. Encourage Questions

When you're adding a new family member to the mix, your older child may have questions about how it will impact their daily lives. Be sure to encourage questions and open discussion. You may be surprised to hear what they're worried about.

A younger child may worry about having to share their room. An older child may worry about mom or dad's adjusted work schedule and financial concerns. No matter what the question is about, try to answer open and honestly. Don't dismiss your child's worries--no matter how silly they may seem to you. If you can start a dialogue and communicate, you'll all feel better about your growing family.

3. Make Your Older Child Feel Like a Star

One of the realties of bringing home a new baby is that the new baby will get the bulk of the attention. Newborns are inherently needy beings! Diaper changes, midnight wake-up calls, and breastfeeding can make the older child feel neglected. Try to make them feel special in their own way. Some parents share a special gift with the older child on the day the baby is born.

4. Share Time Together

Older children like to feel included, so let them help with the new baby. Allow them to sit by your side while you nurse so you can share time together. Children love special titles--monikers such as "Mommy's / Daddy's Helper" can make them feel valued and important during this busy time of family transition.

Handling Older Children's Rivalries

As children grow up, they often compare themself to their siblings. This is normal and natural, but can cause disagreements and family strife. Here are some tips to make home life happy as your children grow.

1. Avoid Comparisons

We don't need to tell you that each child is a unique individual with different skills, talents, and personality quirks. One surefire way to stoke the sibling rivalry is to overtly compare your children to one another. Comments such as, "Your big brother gets straight A's! You should try to be like him and study hard!" may seem motivating and innocuous, but over time, can lead to real resentment. Try to make each child feel valued and special for who they are as a person, not how they stack up against one another.

2. Strive to Listen to Both Sides

There are two sides to every story. If one child is always labeled the instigator and the other child is labeled the victim, you'll end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy of behavior. Part of having multiple kids will mean that you will end up mediating (many!) disagreements. Playing referee fairly means letting both children express their side of the problem. The simple act of letting each child feel heard can go a long way to solving most conflicts.

3. Encourage Independent Interests

One way to put a damper on sibling rivalry is to encourage each child have their own unique interests and activities. Strive to allow each child explore their own passions--whether that's art, music, sports, or academics. Supporting each child's special skills and interests will help them build self-esteem while reducing competition with their brother or sister.

Sibling rivalry can be challenging for your whole family. Know that this is a normal stage of your children's development, and will likely be something that diminishes as your children grow older. Finding proactive ways to cope and help your children relate to one another will ease the stress on your family.