Little children love to be prepared for what is going to happen. It makes them feel more secure. Some sibling rivalry is inevitable. I’ve witnessed seeing siblings at war in my work as well as raising three kids of my own.
It is even prevalent in the animal world! Baby black eagles turf out the weaker ones from the nest. In Melbourne Zoo, there was a toddler elephant who annoyed at all the attention his baby brother was receiving, deliberately tripped him up so that the baby fell down.
The ultimate aim is to reduce sibling rivalry before it gets a foothold. In small children the right cerebral hemisphere develops before the left. This means the child is sensitive to emotions but may not be able to process them or verbally express them. Your child will view your growing girth, (the absence of a lap to cuddle in) with at best ambivalence. You have to convince them that sharing you won’t mean diluting you.
Parents are often asked how the elder child is reacting when a new baby is brought home from hospital.
“Oh he loves his baby sister...”
But in fact it is a complex blend of protectiveness and self preservation. In fact this ambivalence is best understood if we were told,
“Darling, I love you so much I’m going to bring home a new wife – but I love you still...”
Below are some tips to help you prepare your children for the new baby......
(1) Involve your child in events like the 20 week scan. Explain that there is “a baby growing in Mummy’s tummy – just like you were.”
(2) Practise holding a baby – gently, feeding the baby with their own baby doll. This isn’t something for girls only. Little boys will love to role play also.
(3) Talk to the child / children about the benefits that come with age. Every age has its pleasures and its pains.
(4) Read to them stories about babies.
(5) Acknowledge that they will at times experience negative feelings.
Our eldest child was five before circumstances allowed her sibling to appear.
“I’m a bit jealous , Mum.”
I remember cuddling her on the couch and saying, “It’s hard being the big sister when bubba is always crying but it won’t last forever, I promise.” Our second child was just a toddler when her little brother arrived. She would be doing something naughty – she was basically showing me the same thing that her sister was telling me. I set her limits but still hugged her and told her she was special to me.
Then when you go to have your baby, remember that your toddler is going to feel separated from you. When they first arrive ensure you have free arms to cuddle them. You may even have a couple of little gifts handy. One from you and Dad and one from the new baby to welcome them into being “a wonderful big brother or sister..”
Remember it takes time and patience to fully grasp the meaning of adjusting to a new sibling. Relationships between siblings last longer than probably any other. Our relationship with our siblings occurs earlier than most friendships and all being well will outlive the relationship we have with our parents.
It is in the nursery that we can learn to develop patience and compromise. They are helpful skills for all human relationships.
Dr Julia Driscoll is a married mother of three children and has been a practicing GP in the Northern Beaches area of Cairns for a number of years. Julia has a passion for both writing and children. She has a special interest in childhood health and development. She is the author of My Story that prevents sibling rivalry by smoothing the intro of a new baby. Visit www.juliaschildrensbooks.com for more information.
What has your experience? What has worked for you? Share with other mothers...