Siblings – I’ve been thinking a lot about them lately.
At Friday’s Play Shoppe, I overheard an endearing comment from one bigger brother to his little brother, both boys new participants at Family Resources, “Let’s sit next to each other, because we’re brothers”.
This older brother, seemingly less confident in his new surroundings than his younger sibling, needed someone familiar to sit near and chose very persuasive reasoning “because we’re brothers”.
We do a lot of things because we’re brothers – and sisters – some good and noble, some not, but the connection that lies within us as siblings, positive or negative, never goes away.
I talk to many parents who are just adding to their families and want to know how to encourage positive connections between their children.
What surprises most parents is when the new baby arrives, all can go very smoothly at first. The baby cries, eats, sleeps but seems pretty non- threatening to the older child. But suddenly, this innocent baby turns into a true interloper – smiling, gooing, waving, clapping and grabbing the older siblings toys and definitely the attention from both mom and dad.
Parents really do have love enough for each child. As parents, we know this. But children aren’t always so sure and that’s what sibling rivalry is all about. Is there enough left for me?
Many parents tell me they promise the older child a special time just for her- after the baby goes to sleep or we leave her at Grandma’s. Good idea – sometimes – as long as the message to the older sibling is not that we can only have fun together when the younger one isn’t around, proving the older child’s point that the baby needs to go for good.
Try creating as many situations as possible when everyone is having fun together. “Let’s put baby Zeke here to be the audience for our puppet show.”
“Mary can’t drink tea like we can, but let’s let her sit with us at our tea party and she can pretend.”
“I can give both of you pushes on the swings. Two brothers, swinging high, in the sky, side by side.”
Often we find ourselves constantly telling the older child, “I can’t do that now because your baby brother needs to …. “. Occasionally, try saying to the baby, when you know you can, and for your older child’s ears, “you’ll just have to wait a minute. I’m helping your big sister now”.
As the years pass, relationships grow and mature. A sense of family, a bond between siblings is very worth the effort. Set the bar high for the climate in your home. Make it a caring, loving place where name calling and putdowns between siblings and/or parents are not part of the fabric, where “because we’re brothers”, matters.
The rewards will be great.