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Your Child And Sibling Relationships

Apr 19, 2008
The arrival of a new baby can be difficult for an older sibling who now has to share his or her parents with another child. You can minimize your child's insecurity by encouraging him or her to help you care for the baby. A child who is 5 or 6 years old can learn to hold, feed, comfort, and play with an infant. As the baby grows and develops, he or she will look to the older child as a model.

Whenever a new child enters the family, he or she changes the dynamics of the family and the day-to-day routine of the household. An older sibling may feel jealous and insecure when a new baby arrives, especially if the older child is under 4 years of age. Toddlers don't want to share their parents with anyone else so they may feel threatened by all the attention paid to the new child. You can limit these feelings by preparing your child for the new sibling while you are pregnant. Tell your child as much as possible about what is going to happen in words that your child will understand. A good way to do this is to read books together about pregnancy and infant care, encouraging your child to ask questions as you read. Ask your child to help you prepare for the new baby fixing up the baby's room, buying diapers, or picking out a crib.

Make any needed changes, such as moving your older child out of a crib or into a new room, several months before the baby is born. That way, your child will be less likely to connect the change with the baby and feel resentful. This is not the time to toilet-train an older child or expect him or her to learn new skills, even if he or she appears ready to do so. Wait until the child has had a chance to adjust to the presence of the new baby; the first few months are the most crucial in helping a child accept a new sibling. Involve your older child in the excitement of the birth by having him or her come to the hospital shortly after the delivery. Make an effort to spend time alone with the older child each day and encourage grandparents and other relatives and friends to do so. On initial visits, encourage friends and relatives to fuss over the older sibling's new big brother or big sister status and to pay less attention to the baby (who won't miss it anyway). This consideration will help minimize jealousy. Let your older child help out with the new baby and talk to the older child as you are caring for the infant.

In response to the arrival of a new sibling, a young child may regress to behaviors such as thumb sucking during the adjustment period; accept this as a temporary need for comfort and give him or her a little extra attention. Encourage the child to talk about his or her feelings-both positive and negative-about the baby. As siblings grow up together, they usually become close friends and companions. But they also bicker and fight-usually over possessions or privileges such as who gets to sit where in the family car. For the most part, these battles are normal and healthy and help children learn to share, to compromise, and to stand up for their rights. Make it clear to a younger child that some privileges given to an older child are based on his or her age.
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