8 proven ways to foster a happy sibling relationship

My children are 6 and 10 and I can confidently say that they love each other, most of the time.

I have a brother and I can sadly say that we grew up, being jealous of each other, competing with each other and fighting constantly. Our adult’s relationship is pretty much non-existent. It still feels quite raw and emotional to write that down here. 

For a long time, I didn’t want to have more than one child. I was very contented with my daughter and I was very scared to welcome a second child in our family.

One day, I started to feel the need for another child. And then I was expecting our second. During that period, my relationship with my own brother degraded even further. While pregnant, I went through a series of family drama so I was even more worried about my children’s future relationships with each other.

My husband had no experience on the matter as he is an only child.

So I started to read and read and read about sibling and how to foster respect, love and empathy between siblings. 

I had a few ideas on my own and I was determined to do better than my parents did. My parents did the best they could at the time but their attitude towards the conflicts between me and my brother was far from helpful. 

So what did I do to help my children to get along? 

If you are expecting a second child or if your children don’t get along, read my tips to nurture a healthy and happy sibling relationship. These tips are relevant for any age but even more accurate to welcome a new baby in the family.

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8 proven and easy tips to nurture a happy sibling relationship from the start

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1. Reflect on your own sibling relationship

This has been a long process for me but I had to really give some deep thought about my own relationship with my brother. I’m the second and having 2 children made me realise the hardship my brother went through when I was born. I can see this now as I have opened my eyes to my daughter, the eldest, emotions about the birth of her brother. You must take the time to be aware of your own emotions, reactions about what’s going between your children. You may want to side with your eldest because you were the eldest of the family or you may favour your youngest because you were the last one and always mistreated by older siblings. Whatever you went through as a child, your child’s will trigger those childhood emotions. It’s ok to feel those emotions but it’s not ok to let them take control over your reactions. 

2. Acknowledge your children’s emotions

Jealousy is a common feeling among children. Unfortunately, many parents are blind to that feeling. When we expect the second one, we are experiencing joy and we are looking forward to welcoming our second child. We might picture a wonderful sibling relationship, thinking that our children will be friends for life. We might say to our first born that she or he is going to have a friend to play with. But quite frankly what we feel is totally different to what our child feels. If you imagine for one minute that your partner is bringing a new “wife” or “husband” at home like that you have a friend to chat with and to share the load with, I’m sure you would be jealous as hell. Well, that what your child feels. The first thing we have been sure off doing was to welcome those feelings. I have to admit it was hard work. We have heard many “I hate the baby”, “why did you want another one?”, “can we change our mind and send him back?”, “you don’t like me, you only like the baby” and many worst sentences than that.

3. Foster bonding

Do you know why babies smell so good? They exult pheromones, the love hormones. Especially on their head! We all love to smell a baby’s hair. Well, the love hormones help us to bond with our baby. By taking care of our new-born physically, we form a strong attachment. So take advantage of this biological “help” and allow your eldest to smell the baby. Let her carry the baby as often as she wishes and encourage her to kiss the baby’s head and to smell it. The topoccino is a great accessory that can help the child to carry the baby.

4. Show unconditional love to your eldest

The greatest fear of your child is to lose your love now that there is a new baby in the house. Because you’re going to be very busy with the baby, it’s easy to “forget” to spend quality time with your first-born. For the mother, it’s a normal reaction to seeing her oldest child as more capable and less in need that the new-born. In addition, you might not be in a state to go out and to spend time with your eldest. But she will need to know that you still love her the same. Enlist help from the start to ensure that you can have a short outing, bedtime story, school pick up with your eldest. It’s easier to commit to 20 minutes of connection a day than waiting for the situation to escalate until you have no choice than spending some time with your child. Most of the time, as long as your new-born is fed, he will sleep happily in anybody’s arm so when he sleeps, take this as an opportunity to spend time with your first-born. When someone visits you, let them dotting over the baby while you play a board game with your eldest. 

5. Cuddle both children as often as you can

Whenever you have the opportunity, snuggle up with both children. When you feed, open one arm to your eldest. When your baby is in the sling, take your first born on your laps and read a story. Encourage her to kiss the baby. As the baby grows up, encourage tickle games and make them both laugh. Cuddle and laugh made us release oxytocin, the happy hormones helping us to bond even more.

6. Welcome your eldest support

When your child wants to help to make the bottles or to change a nappy, find ways to allow her to contribute. Allow your eldest to amuse the baby too and help her to understand the baby cues. “look she laughs when you shake the rattle, she likes you a lot already”

7. Bring the baby into the big child’s world

If your toddler plays on the floor and you feed the baby on the rocker, you will create distance between the baby and you and your big child. Instead, sit down with your baby on the floor while your toddler is playing. Take the baby in a sling to go to the playground, allowing you to help your child on the swing. 

8. Nurture yourself

Having a baby is hard and having a baby and another young child is even harder. Rewarding yes but it’s a lot of hard work to tend to little one’s needs. So schedule some me time, discuss with your partner how you are going to manage to keep your cup full to be able to pour some love on your two or more children. Don’t delay that me time until your children are older. They need parents who love parenting now not when they are older. 

2 books that helped me on parenting two children

Dr Laura Markham – Calm Parents, Happy sibling

Fabler and Mazlich – Sibling without rivalry

I’m planning another article with tips for older children.

Let me know what you do to foster a happy sibling relationship!

My next Montessori and Gentle Discipline online course is starting in June. The course includes discussion about sibling relationship. If you want to be updated when I take registration, subscribe to my newsletter!

 

 

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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin is a a mother of 2 children. She raises them the Montessori way. Originally from Belgium where she worked as a child psychologist for several years, Carine spent 6 years in Ireland before settling in in the UK. She qualified as a Montessori teacher 10 years ago and has since worked as Montessori teacher and preschool manager. She founded Montessori-family in 2011 to provide opportunities for parents to discover Montessori. She believes that it’s truly possible to implement the Montessori ideas at home to make your house and family life welcoming to your child, her needs and her thrive for independence. She offers parents & babies classes, toddlers playgroups; Montessori home designs, one to one support, parenting classes and online courses.

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