On this national day of celebrating brothers and sisters, parents share a special responsibility to nurture this unique bond. While there is no foolproof, fail-safe approach to a harmonious household, below are a few tips to get your children down a path of sibling appreciation.
The sibling relationship begins when you are pregnant
No newsflash here: an older sibling might have a rough time wrapping their head around the concept of a new addition to the family. The more you speak of them helping with their new brother or sister, and less of how different life will be, the more cooperation you will get out of your child. You want them to think: “The baby is mine and I need to protect them.”
The first sibling meeting
While your older child might not remember their first meet-and-greet with their new sibling, the emotions will likely stick with them. When they first walk into your hospital room, make sure the baby is in the crib and not in your arms. Try to choose a time when your newborn is asleep or peaceful. Otherwise your older child might always associate crying with change. Perhaps have a gift from the baby to “give” to them. And always refer to the new addition by the baby’s first name. This makes them a family member, not an object.
As time goes on, be mindful not to accidentally compare
Saying an innocent phrase like “No one makes me laugh like you!” to one child can make their sibling feel as if your affection might be lopsided. Always be aware of comparative language. And it goes without saying that comparing on purpose is never a good idea and makes no difference in behavior modification. Let’s hope the “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” era is behind us.
Keep play dates, birthdays, or other singled-out activities special
If your seven year-old has a buddy over to play, their little brother or sister should be nowhere near them. Plan to do something special with your little one so your older child can enjoy their time. Birthdays should be a big deal for each child. And this doesn’t mean it has to be costly. Whatever it is, when there’s focus on one child, allow it to happen (and remind little forgetful brains that they’ve had their turn and will again!)
Encourage them to be each other’s biggest cheerleader
Yes, the little one gets dragged to every skating competition and basketball game. The older child might have to sit through a preschool graduation. Make these moments less painful by being that supportive, cheering family.
Team up the kids against Mom and Dad
Even little ones love feats of strength, both mental and physical. If the stakes are high at a friendly round of family miniature golf, encourage a kids-versus-Mom-and-Dad round. On family game night, make it grown-ups against children. Children bond over game-centered battles with their parents.
And as always, be the example
If you grew up with a sibling, talk frequently about what it was like. Tell stories of times you built that awesome fort or got in big trouble with Grandma and Grandpa. Speak fondly about your relationship.
What’s it like in your home? What have you done to encourage sibling bonding? Let us know at email@example.com!