How to Promote Positive Sibling Relationships
By Roslyn Haber, Ed.D., and Marlyn Press, Ed.D.

How to Promote Positive Sibling Relationships

September 16, 2016   |   ASK THE EXPERTS  

   
Tips to help parents promote positive sibling relationships between an older child and an infant, as well as when the children get older.
     

Having a sibling is a gift, which should be savored forever. Parents need to imprint their children with the positive ways to develop this relationship. Siblings should be life-long support systems for each other.
    

Helping Older Siblings Bond with Infant Siblings

Begin by preparing a child for the birth of a sibling. He should be a participant in pre-birth activities (e.g. Where should the diapers be stored? Where should we put the baby’s clothing?) Pictures of him as a newborn, his own space, toys, etc., should be shown as part of the process of preparation. Books can be read to him about how a baby grows inside a mother and what to expect with a newborn baby.

After the baby is born, it is critical to carve some time to alone with the older child. While the newborn is sleeping, parents can spend time reading to, playing with, or bathing the older child.

Make the older child feel that she is important in the life of the newborn by delegating specific chores to her. She can bring diapers and food to the parent. She can touch and comfort the baby. She can help with child care routines as she is able.
    

Helping Siblings Bond as Infant Siblings Get Older

Set limits as to “sharing toys and time.”

Do not compare children; value each child’s strengths.

Do not allow physical or verbal abuse. Separate children immediately. A calm tone must be used to resolve the situation. Children must be given respect, time, and a non-partial setting to vent their frustration. Parents need to demonstrate alternate ways to manage differences for peaceful settlement of sibling fights.

Use humor to mediate disputes. Children need to be taught to live harmoniously in today’s world. Parents should demonstrate how their actions and words are cruel and hurtful towards one another.

Pick your battles. Sometimes the mere presence or glance of a parent will stop the victimization. However, when it is a “biggie,” parents must immediately intervene.

Help children develop a sense of compassion. Parents can build sensitivity and insightfulness into children, as it is a critical attribute in dealing with people throughout life. Show children, through role-play, what it feels like to be “victimized.”

Promote a team relationship between siblings. Find activities such as games, cooking, cleaning, and singing where they can each participate and need one another.


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How to Foster Strong Sibling Bonds