New additions to the family can be both exhilarating and distressing for everyone — especially your older child or children. As much as you may expect them to be thrilled, it’s rarely a smooth transition for older siblings. Truth is, they face more drawbacks from these new relationships than we like to admit, so it is crucial to be mindful that the first few interactions with their sibling are planned conscientiously, in order to foster a strong sibling bond.
Given your experience, you should be aware of the importance of spending quality time with your older child and keeping your relationship strong and healthy. The best way to prevent your child from feeling sibling rivalry would be to take delight in them and give them just as much if not more attention than you usually would. There are many ways to cultivate a strong sibling bond amongst your children, even if one is still a baby.
5 Tips for Fostering a Strong Sibling Bond
1. Find time to snuggle with your child and infant together
A successful relationship requires at least five positive interactions for every negative reaction. Naturally, parents should consciously work at creating more positive interactions with their children. Physical contact and laughter helps them to release bonding hormones such as oxytocins and reduces stress, which explains how snuggling with your kids often can help strengthen their positive sibling bond.
2. Make the baby a part of the older sibling’s world
If you keep feeding your baby on the couch or bed while your toddler is always playing with toys on the floor, your child may start to experience separation anxiety. You should try to get out of your comfort zone at every chance possible and join your older child on the floor while he is playing, allowing your infant watch him too while at it. It may not be as comfortable as feeding your baby on a rocker, but these little sacrifices you make now will go a long way in helping to foster a stronger bond between them. Plus, you wouldn’t have to deal with the guilt of making your older child feel left out all the time.
At the same time, you should also learn how to encourage the involvement of your older child and honor his or her input.
“Oh dear, why is your baby brother crying? What do you think we can do to make him happy? …..Wow, you were right, he was just hungry. Look, he has stopped crying! He’s going to love and appreciate you so much for understanding him so well and helping out when he needs something.”
3. Keep calm and redirect
Children are constantly discovering new things every day as they grow older, but it takes time for them to grasp the right way of doing things. Sometimes, as much as they want to help us with good intentions, they end up doing just the opposite.
Are they feeding the baby a big biscuit, or singing too loudly in their ears? These situations might aggravate your stress levels but the sensible thing to do is to take a deep breath and just redirect them.
You can try making suggestions like gently stroking the baby instead of singing, or distracting the baby with a toy instead of feeding him or her snacks. They can also pick things up much faster by practicing on their dolls first. Keeping calm and redirecting is easier said than done, but it makes a huge difference in helping your older child relate more to his or her sibling, instead of feeling disregarded when their efforts to connect are futile.
4. Let the older child take charge
Children love it when they get to be in charge of things, be it big or small tasks. It makes them feel important, appreciated and honored when their parents trust them with tasks, even at a young age. It could be something as simple as reading a book to the baby during bedtime, or entertaining him or her while you change their diaper. Your child will learn to take responsibility seriously if you do.
5. Never belittle the baby to build the child up
Parents often to assume that making derogatory remarks about the baby would make the older child feel better about certain situations.
“Babies are so smelly! Aren’t you glad you learned how to use the toilet?”
Although it is fair for your child to feel jealousy or anger, you shouldn’t be suggesting that it’s okay to belittle others. Quit being mean to the baby, even as a joke, because you’re actually really encouraging your child to be immoral. Every child is wonderful in their own way, so there isn’t a need to compare at all.
Try these tips with your older children as well and you’ll notice them starting to take more responsibility in taking care of their younger siblings as well. Oh but remember, a strong sibling bond could also mean that they might side each other during an argument! We’ll have more on that later, but for now, happy bonding!