No Longer the Baby
When I was pregnant with my second child, my biggest concern wasn't my horrible morning sickness or decorating the nursery. It was how my then 2 1/2-year-old daughter would feel about our new addition and if I could ward off sibling rivalry before my son even arrived. And I know I'm not alone.
Whether you're about to add a child to your family or already have two (or more) squabbling kids, how they get along is probably on your mind. "Though sibling rivalry is natural (and inevitable), being proactive in those early days and years can have a big impact on your children's relationship down the road," says Laurie Kramer, PhD, professor of applied family studies and director of the Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
At the heart of sibling rivalry is the fact that brothers and sisters have to share their parents' love and attention as well as space and possessions. They're also figuring out their place in the family and concerned about fair treatment and control. The good news? "Eventually, your children learn to adapt to one another and share their parents with each other," says T. Berry Brazelton, MD, author of Understanding Sibling Rivalry: The Brazelton Way (Perseus Books). Here are 15 ways (some of them simple) to help make that happen.
Adapting Once Baby's Home
As They Get Older
I'm happy to report that all my worrying about how my daughter would feel about a new baby and how well they'd get along turned out to be unnecessary. Yes, there are days when she will tackle my 2-year-old for touching her markers, or he'll throw an Elmo doll at her. But far more often, I'll find them laughing together, playing tag, and cuddling on the couch watching Dora. At least for now.
From Firstborn to Sibling
Rewards of Having Siblings
While having more kids means a heavier workload for Mom and Dad, as well as a bigger financial burden, "nothing can be more of a gift to a child than a sibling," says T. Berry Brazelton, MD, author of Understanding Sibling Rivalry: The Brazelton Way (Perseus Books). Here's why:
Mom's Little Helpers
Adapting to a bigger brood takes time, but your older kids may adopt a doting (even helpful!) role:
"If I'm changing Nora's diaper, Maeve says, 'Okay, Nora, let me sing you a song.' Nora just sits there and stares at her big sister." -- Kate, Summit, New Jersey, mom to Maeve, 3, and Nora, 1
"I call Zachary the 'third parent.' Right now he's "teaching" Andrew to use the potty!" -- Alisa, Boxford, Massachusetts, mom to Zachary, 7, and Andrew, 3
"Cassidy has a lot of fun pretending Cale is her prince or her puppy, which keeps them both happy!" -- Colleen, Missoula, Montana, mom to Cassidy, 4, and Cale, 21 months
"At a party, one of the older kids was yelling at Veronica. Anita said, 'Stop yelling at my sister! You're going to make her cry.' I was touched by her protectiveness." -- Sonia, East Greenwich, Rhode Island, mom to Anita, 4, and Veronica, 19 months
"My boys were very sweet when our third child was born. Matthew gave Chris toys that he wouldn't be able to play with for years, and Jack became upset if he thought I wasn't responding to the crying quickly enough." -- Kate, Pelham, New York, mom to Jack, 10, Matthew, 7, and Chris, 5
Michele Bender is a mother of two and a freelance writer in New York City.
The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.