The way parents talk about the new baby reflects on the sibling relationship. Older siblings’ feelings towards the baby may vary. Older siblings’ positive feelings towards the new baby are enhanced when the parents talk about the baby in a positive way. The sibling relationship will most likely be closer if they have a feeling that their parents care for them equally.
The development of sibling relationship can be supported for instance in the following ways:
- Telling that the baby is interested in the older sisters and brothers and pointing out how the baby can recognise his or her siblings.
- Showing how to make the baby smile.
- Encouraging play and games with the baby.
- Drawing siblings’ attention to the fact how the baby joins in a game.
- Talking about items the baby might like or need.
- Allowing older siblings to take care of the baby with the parents.
- Talking about feelings with the whole family.
- Calling the baby a sister or brother instead of the baby’s name.
- Creating routines: for instance siblings saying good night to one another.
If an older sibling becomes aggressive towards the baby, the parents have to
- Protect the baby.
- Make it very clear to the older sibling that such behaviour is not acceptable and then guide him or her to choose alternative, acceptable behaviour patterns.
- Teach children that all feelings are acceptable while all actions are not.
- Convince the children that parents love them all just as much as before.
Jealousy and sibling rivalry
- Jealousy is only temporary and usually tapers away within two to six months from the baby’s birth.
- Jealousy is most common in families with one older sibling and the age difference between children around two to three years. Approximately two-year-olds are the most jealous of the new baby. On the other hand, over seven-year-olds seldom are jealous of their siblings.
- If an older sibling feels that the baby gets more attention, he or she may start behaving like a baby, for instance, babble or wet again. Regression usually passes quickly and there is no need to worry.
- You should not tell the child to be a big girl or be a big boy. It is important that parents talk children through their emotions and say they understand the reactions.
- Arguments and disagreements between siblings may also be useful for the child’s development. When squabbling, siblings learn for instance the difference between humour and insult. Standing one’s ground, defending and demanding one’s rights and making up are all important skills the siblings learn when living together.