Preparing for Sibling Rivalry

The two times sibling rivalry rears it’s head and what to do about it.

How to be intentional about preparing (and preventing) sibling rivalry.

Bringing home a new baby is exciting, frightening, and comes with a heaping dose of uncertainty. You never know exactly how older siblings will react to this new little one and, although you’ve prepared older siblings for baby’s arrival, introducing kids to another baby can be nerve-wracking.

Perhaps you’ve heard the stories of sibling rivalry: kids that are indifferent, moody, or even throwing tantrums. While these are all potential ways older siblings are attempting to express themselves, there’s no reason to resign yourself to the fate of continual tantrums.

From the moment you bring baby home to months later when baby is on the move, you can be intentionally preparing for (and preventing) sibling rivalry.

Sibling Rivalry when Baby’s a Newborn

The classic examples of sibling rivalry happen right after a newborn comes home.

With so much time and energy going into baby’s care those first weeks (and months), it’s no wonder that many old siblings feel slighted. There’s the unknown aspect of how this baby will fit into their home routines and how they will share their parents.

You can prevent sibling rivalry in the early days with these preparations:

  • Introduce and refer to the new baby as “our baby.” This gives your older children the feeling that, as a family unit, you are all welcoming this new little one.
  • Spend quality time with your older children. While you won’t be able to spend equal time with your older child as you with your needy newborn, you can make sure the quality of time spent with your oldest is high. Skip the screen time and plan to play actively when your newborn is content. Building a new creation, going for a treasure hunt, or baking a special treat together are all highly involved activities just right for older siblings.
  • Make use of baby wraps and carriers so your hands are free and you can really engage with your older children. Consider sitting on the floor when playing so you’re most accessible even if you’re holding a baby.
  • Build a routine for baby’s feedings. Pull out quiet activities your oldest enjoys while baby eats. Perhaps reading together, followed by coloring, then building with blocks. Setting aside a feeding time to use as screen time for the day can break up the monotony of feeding over and over. Each feeding doesn’t need to be a structured activity, but should follow a routine your older children are comfortable with.

Sibling Rivalry when Baby’s on the Move

Sibling rivalry can take many different forms and might not appear right after a new baby is born.

In our house, sibling rivalry typically rears its head when baby learns to move. All of a sudden, a baby who used to be content sitting with a piles of toys is exploring around him: he’s grabbing other’s toys, drooling on the majority of them, and wreaking havoc in an older sibling’s world.

While baby’s learning to move is an exciting time, it’s definitely another opportunity to prepare for sibling rivalry. You can combat older sibling’s resentment of baby with these preparations:

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  • Give the older sibling a special place, out of baby’s reach, to store and play with toys for bigger kids. Practice playing and picking up these toys together so you can teach your oldest to make sure no small parts go missing.
  • Teach your oldest how to play with baby. Practice making simple towers for baby to knock over, cook pretend meals for baby to taste, or race to complete a simple puzzle before baby can take it apart.
  • Spend one-on-one time with your older children throughout the week. Choose some big kid activities your children enjoy and plan to spend consistent time together.

With a little planning you can keep a calm home when you add a new baby to the mix. How will you anticipate sibling rivalry?

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger

Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.

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