How to Support Sibling Love
First, let me be clear, my sister and I do not have the perfect relationship. We’ve had a few quaffs. I stole some clothes of hers back in the day and things like that, but we’ve never had any sort of physical altercation. Anytime we have a disagreement or have spent too much time together, instead of having some sort of blow out, we usually just kind of have an awkward few days until something bigger happens and the disagreement is forgotten. I’ve been mad at her and I know she’s been mad at me, but for the most part we are truly best friends. Maybe our personalities don’t conflict (she’s type A and I’m type B) or our 3 1/2 year age difference is ideal, whatever it is, it works.
Like most of these things go, I’m going to go ahead and give credit to our mom and dad. I don’t remember them having some sort of discussion with us about being supportive sisters or anything like that. I know that they’re annoyingly neutral when it comes to taking sides during a disagreement. My mom goes to ridiculous lengths to be “fair.” Literally at Christmas she would have the same amount of boxes or spent the exact same amount of money on us. To this day, she’ll slip me $20 and I’ll know that she must have bought my sister something so she wanted to even things up.
When it comes to our accomplishments, I’ve never felt any sort of jealousy towards my sister. She has her PhD and a couple of master degrees, but I don’t feel ashamed with my meazily B.A., I feel proud of her.
I like feeling that way and would hate to have one of those ugly sibling rivalry relationships. In an effort to pass this along to my two kiddos, I’ve decided to start young. I found some good tips that I’m working on exercising in my home. Here are some of my favorites for my brood right now:
Make the older sibling feel important. Savvy visitors who themselves have survived sibling rivalry will bring along a gift for the older child when visiting the new baby. In case this doesn’t happen, keep a few small gifts in reserve for the older sib when friends lavish presents and attention on the new baby. Let him be the one to unwrap the baby gifts and test the rattles. Give your child a job in the family organization.
Time share. What bothers children most is sharing you with the new baby. Since the concept of sharing is foreign to the child under three (as mom is their most important “possession”), it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to sell the child on the concept of sharing mother. It sounds good to say that you’ll give your older child equal amounts of your time, but in practice that’s unrealistic and unnecessary. New babies require a lot of maintenance, and you don’t have 200 percent of yourself to give. We would wear our infant in a baby sling, which gave us two free hands to play a game with the older one. While feeding baby, we would read a book to the sibling, or just have cuddle time. Spending a lot of time sitting on the floor increases your availability to your toddler while your baby is in-arms or at breast. As baby gets older, place him in an infant seat, or on a blanket, on the floor to watch you play one-on-one with her big brother or sister. This entertains two kids with one parent. As first-time parents, we struggled with how we were going to meet the needs of a newborn and a toddler, only to realize that because our toddler got what he needed as a baby, he could handle frustration. An infant can’t.
Begin the day in harmony. If possible, start most days with “special time” with your toddler. Sometimes starting the day with twenty minutes of intensive care—holding time—with your toddler can ward off angry feelings in the toddler toward the new baby and is a good investment in the rest of the day.
What sort of things to you do to promote sibling harmony in your family?