It is necessary to start thinking about sibling rivalry even before the firstborn is here, as it is important for the couple to talk about the family routine, values they will want to instill in their children and be proactive in thinking about the care they will require, challenges and occasions, in general, that will rise when the baby comes. When raising your first little one, they will be for a long time, an only child, and will surely receive that “special treatment” that we just can’t help, right? However, it is important that from an early age, they don’t become the whole center of attention. That there are, or there will be other members in the family and they will be deserving of care and attention as well. It is also important to talk about how there are no identical people, not even if they are twins or multiples. Each child has their specific needs in different stages of life.
When the second child is born and the firstborn is still little, the couple needs to develop a plan of action to tag-team even further – although, I guess we can agree that partners should be stepping up regardless of whether they have two small children or not, right? 🙂 But here, specifically, because, in addition to the regular demands that usually fall on moms, the new mother will need to pay more attention to the newborn, especially if they are able and choose to breastfeed.
And, when this happens, depending on how the dynamics in the house is set, the firstborn child may feel abandoned and develop regressive behaviors in their development due to this emotional change. Behaviors such as tantrums, aggression, decreased speech development are some examples of what can happen. That is why it is important for the family to prepare, adapt, and divide tasks equally so that everyone can get the attention they truly need.
Each person has their own characteristics, personality, and temperament. Often, one of your children is good at one skill, and at other times, they can’t seem to get the hang of it. And, your other child may be good, precisely, in this particular skill that their sibling can’t seem to master, but in other ones, they are not that great, and vice versa. This is not to say that one is better than the other, just that they are different, but as parents, I know you already know that.
But it is important to communicate this with the children so they understand it and don’t feed into a competition mentality; we need to teach them to respect and celebrate each other’s abilities and differences. Everyone has their talents so never fail to recognize the areas your little ones are really great at along with their achievements, no matter how small. Yet, we know that even if they do all of this, rivalry in siblings can still occur.
Do not compare your children
Making comparisons, even with the best of intentions, can be a serious mistake. Often, unintentionally or out of habit, we end up saying: “Why don’t you try that like your brother did?”. This may undermine a child’s self-esteem and taking away their own personality as if they had to shape up by who their sibling is.
Encourage your children to develop individual activities
Enroll them in activities each one identifies with, allow them to do the activities they have an interest in, obviously, as long as it is appropriate for their age group and, preferably, let them explore different activities so that it does not generate competition and let everyone shine in their own place.
Promote activities that develop the ability to work as a team
Play games that encourage cooperation between siblings and even with other people. This is important for working with kindness, generosity, reciprocity and empathy. You can, for example, delegate household activities to each of them and say that when they are done, everyone will have a yummy snack together. Stay tuned to particular challenges each child may see if they can help and support each other.
Never give in to favoritism
Often, one of your little ones will be more communicative, will have more affinity with you, or will be very determined and independent. There will always be one who will identify more with dad and the other one with mom. But it is essential to be conscious and not to be carried away by favoritism. As much as we tend to do this and it seems imperceptible to us, unconsciously, we may still show signs of it just because you may enjoy the same things.
In any case, this may bring negative results in the future and may generate some feeling of competition or annoyance regarding this “favorite” child. I know cases where it even causes a distance between them. Therefore, it is important to teach your children to build healthy and solid relationships between siblings, as this relationship will be for life. Your little ones in the course of their life will change schools, have other interests, maybe move away for college (yes, I am dreaming of a COVID-free world!), and the time will come where they will be away from each other for long periods.
In each phase of their lives, they will have new friends and may lose contact with the old ones, too; we know that a friendship can last decades, but not many will last a lifetime. The relationship with our siblings is for life. The connection between them is an important one, as it is a support and someone they can count on and share experiences from the time they are born. They will be by each other’s side in good and bad times, so nurturing a healthy relationship and learning how to overcome rivalry when arises is necessary to straighten their especial bond.