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Siblings - Both Loyal and Rivalous

By Linda Milo

I remember the day I brought my newborn son home from the hospital. I had prepared my three other children about his new arrival - or I thought I did! I showed him off lovingly to his older brother, who took one look at him and said, "take him back! I am thankful that this attitude didn't continue throughout their lifetime, but I do know of many parents who are still not comfortable leaving their children together alone in the same room!

Siblings are children, regardless of sex, born from the same parents. Sibling rivalry is universal. Siblings usually have a fierce relationship. They are both loyal and rivalous. Sibling relationships present a connection that outlasts any other relationship in their entire lives. Many of us don't stop to think about how much our siblings affected us. In fact, we are enormously shaped by our siblings, whether they were born before or after us.

All human beings have three basic needs: 1) the need to be noticed, be recognized, and be important to others; 2) the need to belong and have emotional ties; and 3) the need to be safe from harm. These basic needs can be actualized and the hostility and jealously of siblings can be minimized if parents follow some of these easy steps:

1.Prepare your children for this new member of the family by letting your children know exactly what the baby will be like. Get out the photo album and show them their baby pictures and explain to them that they were tiny once themselves. Show your child picture books about babies. Have your child help prepare the baby's room by being a part of your shopping trips to buy articles for the newborn.

2.Let each child know that they will become a "Big Brother or a "Big Sister once the newborn arrives. Play this up by describing what privileges this will allow him, i.e., "You'll be able to help Mommy feed the baby." These privileges help your child to become more grown-up.

3.When you arrive home from the hospital, allow your love and attention to be focused on the children at home, specifically, the oldest born child. Allow your significant other to carry the baby into the home, so that your arms will be free to hug, kiss, and embrace your other children. Spend some time with your other children before introducing your newborn. After you have put your children at ease, ask your mate to introduce the baby to his brothers and sisters. Ask your first-born child, who loves to take charge, to bring you a baby blanket or a diaper. Let them feel that you need their assistance at this time.

4.When you are in the hospital giving birth to your newborn, have your mate give presents to the other children at home. Tell your children that the baby sent these gifts to them. They will have a good feeling toward this generous person before they even meet him! After coming home from the hospital and before showing them their new brother or sister, give each child another gift from you.

5.When a new baby arrives, there is a feeling of displacement on the part of your other children. Encourage them to speak openly about this by commenting, "You wish you were the only one, huh? or "You wish the baby weren't here." By allowing your children to express what they are feeling about the arrival of the newborn, they will work through their negative and hostile feelings by knowing that you understand what they are going through, i.e., "Now mommy knows." Help your child or children avoid a sense of guilt about the way they feel. Tell your child you don't blame them for feeling as they do. This is also the time to spend extra-special one-on-one time with each of your children.

6.Sibling rivalry is defined as the competition between siblings for the love, approval, and attention of one or both parents. There was a study done that indicated that siblings fight more often when mom is around (30% more) and less when dad was around (20%). When the whole family is together siblings only spent a few minutes of each hour fighting. To promote positive sibling relationships, try to engage in group activities like starting a backyard garden or going on a Sunday family walk together.

7.When siblings do fight, as a parent, it's your job to allow them to not only vent, but to find solutions to their problems. Parents around the world have heard "He hit me first! Before you jump in by telling your children how to handle their problem, just remind yourself your children need to learn to solve problems - which is a good thing. Tell them, "Stop fighting. I know you two can work out a solution to your problem. You can work this out." Have your children leave the room and go someplace else. By going to another room, the energy changes and so does the problem. Don't become a referee or take sides.

8.Children all need not only a sense of privacy, but also a sense of personal belonging. Allow your child to spend time alone with their friends, without their sibling hanging around. Create a space in each child's room that is designated for their own personal things.

9.Let each sibling "shine around the dinner table daily by asking each child to mention one thing nice about his brother or sister.

10.Thankfully as your children become teenagers, their bonding becomes tighter and their rivalry becomes less. There seems to be a more harmonious relationship. Watching sisters shop together or brothers attend footballs games together is a heartwarming sight. As we all know personalities differ and some personality types clash. Parents should not be hard on themselves if they realize that they did everything they could to bring harmony to their children's lives, but their children just aren't that close or sympathetic to each other. On the other hand, there are siblings that seem from the very beginning to be close and loving toward each other. Each family has its own story to tell of this delicate interplay.

Finally, there aren't any parents that I've met who successfully erased the friction between their children. Children fight with each other and children care for each other at different times during their relationship. Parents who make efforts in bringing harmony to the family should be applauded. Give your children quality time with you. Play games with them throughout their childhood because this fosters cooperation, taking turns, friendly competition and generosity. The beauty of siblings is that one day they will become mothers and fathers who will share their newborn's glorious birth with their aunts and uncles. The circle continues!

Copyright © 2005 by Linda Milo and Empowering Parents Now. All rights reserved.

About The Author
Linda Milo, The Parent-Child Connection Coach, specializes in helping mothers and fathers turn their parenting challenges into a more livable, more workable, and more enjoyable family life. The tips in this article have been excerpted from her upcoming tips booklet, "58 Solutions For Common Parenting Challenges."

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