Sibling Rivalry

How did you prepare your child for the arrival of a new baby brother or sister?

What methods have you found helpful in fostering co-operation from your toddler (i.e.; helping with the extra work that comes with a new baby)?

What are your thoughts on eliminating or reducing the psychological threat your child may see from having to share your attention and affection with a new baby?

What techniques have been successful for you in redirecting negative energy in your older child (jealousy towards the new baby, selfishness, etc.)?

"You asked how parents dealt with preparing a child for a new baby. I would like to share my situation.
I am sure that each child's reaction to a new brother or sister is going to be different and it also depends on the age of the older child. My son turned six two weeks after the baby, his sister, was born. Perhaps since he was older and already in Kindergarten with many friends of his own, he handled the change very well. Yet, we didn't take any chances and began preparing him as soon as I found out I was pregnant. (I have read that you should wait until further on in the pregnancy to tell an older child about the new baby, but we chose to tell him right away for many reasons.) My son had begun to ask whether he would ever have a brother or sister like the other kids in his class. We told him he was going to be a big brother in January (of the next year) and he was very excited! We also told him that while I was pregnant, I would be tired and would need to take naps sometimes. I think it was important for him to know why I'd be tired and moody during those months.
I began to prepare him for the new arrival right away and continued throughout the pregnancy in several ways. We read books together on the subject of birth, babies, pregnancy, and what it was like to have a new baby in the house. We talked to him often about how pregnancy and birth would affect mom so he would know what to expect. We also talked a lot about what it would be like to have a new baby around and that we would all have to help a lot. We also emphasized that the new baby would need lots of special care and attention and wouldn't be able to play with him for a long time.
Since my son likes stories, I read several books to him to prepare him. `How I was Born' is really good because it doesn't get into conception and sex but talks more about pregnancy and birth in a simple way. Also, the book `A Child is Born' shows pictures of the fetus at various stages of development. We used to take it out every month or so or whenever he inquired and see what the baby looked like at that point. There are several good books on the subject of a new baby and what it may be like. `The New Baby' by Fred Rogers and `The New Baby At Your House' were excellent. I read these soon after he found out I was pregnant and then, again, around the time the baby was born.
The hospital offered sibling tours which were excellent and he really enjoyed that. We made sure he had a place to stay when I was in the hospital and while my husband was with me during labor and went over that procedure before she was born.
Then perhaps the best idea I had was to make him feel very important about being a big brother. He would often say that he would teach her to tie her shoes, ride a bike, etc. while I was pregnant. I made him a sweatshirt that said I'M A BIG BROTHER on it and gave it to him when he came to see me in the hospital. He was thrilled and wore it for 3 days straight! It had been difficult for him because I was 10 days late and for weeks, friends and teachers asked him `Did your mom have the baby yet?' When he wore the sweatshirt, they knew. It also reminds him of how important he is to her.
Since she has been born, I've tried to keep my son's routines the same. We still read bedtime stories and I try to remember that he needs lots of attention too. I try to notice when he is being especially nice and gentle with her and I tell other people how great he is to his sister when he is around to hear how proud I am of him. We found out early that singing seems to calm her some if we couldn't get to her right away. He is also able to give her a pacifier if she needs it or shake a rattle to entertain her. He really enjoys making her laugh and smile. We still talk to him about how he feels about his sister and it has always been positive. We tell him we realize it isn't always easy having to share our time, but he hasn't seemed to mind it much. I think he was ready to share the attention because the reward of being a Big Brother was special for him."

"My pregnancy with our second child seemed to be focused more on how our first child would react to the new baby rather than the usual pre-baby excitement. When our baby was born, our daughter was 2 1/2 years old. She was really excited about having a new baby brother and still loves him to death. That's not to say we are without our problems, but I think that the way we prepared her for his arrival has really made a difference.
We told our daughter about the baby at about the 3 month point in the pregnancy. At first we didn't talk about it too much, but we gradually worked the baby into daily conversations.
She graduated into a big bed before the pregnancy, so that was not a problem.
The biggest help to prepare her was a book entitled, `I Want to Tell You About My Baby' by Rosalyn Banish. We read this book to her so often that she eventually could recite it word for word.
Another big help was the Big Brother/Big Sister class at North Memorial Hospital. It really helped her to understand exactly what was about to happen.
When the baby was born, her daddy brought her to the hospital that very day to see and hold her baby brother. We gave her a big sister T-shirt and had a birthday party with a cake (which she helped to make earlier that week.) She also picked out one of her small stuffed animals from home to give to her brother as a `welcome to the world' gift.
Baby brother has been around now for 12 weeks, and still she's as good as before. She helps make bottles, helps to diaper and dress him, but most of all helps entertain him. We keep her involved by asking her to help and letting her help when she wants. I think it makes her feel real important and needed when the baby is fussy and we ask her to go play with her brother. It absolutely never fails - the baby could be in a screaming fit and thirty seconds after our daughter shows up, we can hear two adorable little voices giggling away!"

"Fostering co-operation: Co-operation comes if the sibling's needs are met. Needs are met best by: Keeping sibling's routine as close to pre-baby status as possible, e.g. - time at home alone with mom and dad. Concept of family - not singling out sibling and/or newborn, but fostering concept of `being together' breeding `living together' co-operatively! - Allowing the child (older sibling) to define who he is in relationship to newborn sibling. My child doesn't say he's the `Big Brother' but that he's his brother's lifeguard."

"Preparation For Sibling Arrival: Used Vicki Lansky's ideas/ references in her book: `Welcoming Your (Your?) Second Child'. Role played using puppets (mom/child and mom puppets both) such scenarios as `Mom needing rest and baby needing lots of care' (much like the role playing I do prior to Dr. appts., trips, etc.). Visited friends of newborn/infants - babysat for a morning - talked about the amount of care and attention and feelings that sibling may in future experience."

"Redirecting Negative Energy: My older sibling is 3 1/2 prior to baby's birth, worked on sibling being able to communicate needs/wants. Example: NOT `I'm thirsty' but `I want a glass of water'. Now, with infant sibling arrival I can ask him `What do you want from me'? `What do you need?' He can, more often than not, tell me `I want you to hold me, etc.'."

"Some suggestions for sibling preparation: 1 - Our son was 3 yrs. old when our daughter was born. We took him to a sibling preparation class offered at the hospital where our baby was to be born. I think this helped him understand where I was going. Before this he thought the hospital was only for sick or injured people. We didn't want him to think his mom was sick. I think most Metro hospitals offer some type of sibling preparation class. 2 - We gave our son his own `baby' to take care of (i.e. feed , diaper, wrap in a receiving blanket, etc.). He really felt like a big brother to the doll. He would talk to it, hold it gently. I think this helped him realize how fragile a newborn really was. 3 - We also had a gift for our new son when he came to visit mom at the hospital from the new baby. He thought this was really neat (it was a piggy bank). He felt special in receiving a gift from his sister. 4 - We visited some friend who had a two month old baby. I think this helped him realize how small a newborn was. It also helped him realize that the baby that was coming home would not be able to talk or walk like himself. 5 - We let our son help pack mom's suitcase for the hospital. 6 - We bought a few inexpensive gifts (Colorforms, puzzles) and wrapped them at home. When someone came with a gift for the baby, we gave our son one of these pre-wrapped packages. This way he had something to open for himself, too. We also let him open the gifts for the baby. I think this helped him feel that all the gifts were not just for the baby. 7 - After the baby came home we tried to keep our son's routine as normal as possible. This meant bedtime and special times (i.e. trips to the park, zoo, etc.) My husband would take him special places, just the two of them. 8 - To redirect negative feelings/energy we bought a punch bag (the kind with sand on the bottom that pops up after it's hit). We told him that if he was angry with the baby or anyone to just go downstairs and punch that."

"In response to your request for ideas to prepare siblings for new baby's arrival;
Daily discussion about what was happening and going to happen with the arrival of new baby helped our 3 yr old twins understand. But most helpful, I think, was establishing a daily `School Time', when we did games, coloring, painting, reading stories, etc. for 1/2 to 1 hr. for several months before baby came. Then, as soon as possible, after baby came home, we continued that daily structured routine. I'm sure this helped the twins adjust to all the new rules and schedules knowing they could still count on that special time with just mom each day. it took extra effort - and some days after sleepless nights - I didn't feel like being energetic or `artistic', but afterward the feeling of accomplishment was worth it."

"How did we prepare our 3yr. old boy for the new baby? We read books about what a baby is and how they grow inside a mommy. We went through the baby clothes together and talked about how tiny he was and that he wore these baby clothes and how cute he was in them. We had our son help dad set up crib. Looked at his baby pictures. We had our son pick out a gift for baby - all by himself. Also, to help him accept baby we bought a gift, wrapped it, and when he came to the hospital to visit baby - we said the gift was from new baby because he was now her Big Brother (he was so happy). For co-operation: We stress often that being a big brother is very important and we discussed the responsibilities of being a big brother i.e.: taking care of little sister, playing (gently) with little sister, protecting little sister, helping mommy with little sister. This makes him feel very important and really helped with co-operation.

"To eliminate jealousy: I'd always let him do things with her, but always with parental supervision, for example letting him lay in the crib with baby (which he really wanted to do) and enjoyed doing. Holding baby often and being able to show her to friends. Of course, taking time to be with him (without little sister) truly helped a lot too! I hope some of these ideas will be of some help! They truly helped me."

"Refer to the new baby as `our baby'. Help the older child feel responsible by designating small chores - picking up pj's, holding the door open for mommy, licking envelopes for birth announcements. Tell the child about the new baby so they are aware of the change that's coming (I didn't know about my younger brothers and sisters until mom went into the hospital and came home with a baby - a surprise!
Having her own doll and rocking chair is nice while mommy feeds the new baby. Special times for just mommy and the older child while the new baby lays on the floor or is sleeping.
Sharing bath time all together - great for skin to skin contact.
Remember `we are a family and we do things together'. Using verbal reinforcement and hugs for any reason. Start sharing from the beginning. Take pictures of the older child alone and with the baby as well as the baby alone. Tell the older child `I love you' often. When he says `I don't want that baby' do not deny the feeling but redirect the thought by saying, `You were a baby and mommy held you and loved you a whole bunch too. And my love is still there for you. Sometimes it's hard to share mom.'
The children came to the hospital and got to hold the new baby. We talked about when they were tiny and how they are growing up. But always the love for them is there."

"We received good advice from our pediatrician on bringing home our newborn twins to their 16 month old brother: Allow older brother to touch, hold and play with his newborn brother, even though that urge is there to keep him away from the baby because he was so rough. Go to the older child before the newborn if all 3 need immediate attention. The baby won't know the difference if they have to wait an extra minute."

"Our daughter was 4 years old when I became pregnant. We started preparing her by reading books about babies (most from the library). One title I recommend is `How You Were Born' by Joanna Cole. I also brought her along on doctor visits to hear the baby's heartbeat. Each month we would look at a book: `Pregnancy' in anatomical illustrations (Carnation Healthcare) to see how the baby was developing. We changed our sleeping arrangements ahead of time and we involved our daughter in this and washing the baby furniture, clothes and toys. I purchased a `baby book' for my daughter titled `My Book About Baby'. It's an informative and fun book for big brothers and sisters to record notes about mom, family, baby, feelings etc. Also has transfers `I'm the big sister' and `I'm the little brother'. We went to the hospital for a Big Sister course and tour. After the baby was born our daughter passed out candy labeled `It's a girl'. When mom and baby came home, our new daughter had a present for her big sister. Our new daughter is 5 weeks old. We had a `Big Sister' party at 4 wks. Big Sister invited playmates over for cupcakes. Since the new baby we've done a lot of talking, explaining, looking at big sister s baby pictures. We praise her good behavior towards the baby. We let her hold her, feed her, bather her (1 minute is all she wants). Two good books I found helpful after the birth were: `That New Baby' by Patricia Relf and `A Baby Sister for Harry' by Emily Perl Kingsley. I try every day to have a special time with my daughter (when baby is sleeping). We read, watch a VCR tape, cook or just color together. So far we've done every thing right. Your older child will act out some type of behavior, guide him through it. Our daughter pretends she's a baby too. I play along, then say okay, your a big sister again."

"What I found helpful in preparing my 2 year old for a new baby included these things:
1. Books from library (i.e. Fred Rodger's `The New Baby')
2. Mentioning the new baby in casual conversation well before it is born.
3. Pointing out where the baby was living (my big tummy) and asking whether my toddler would like to talk to the baby in there.
4. Sibling Preparation Class offered through Abbott Northwestern Hospital was the most helpful thing we could have done to prepare my 2yr old.
5 Have a mom or mom-in-law stay for a week after new baby comes to play and entertain the toddler.
6. Now that they ar 1 and 3 yrs old, we have one rule: If baby cries, you stop doing what you're doing."

"Here some suggestions for siblings: one reference book that is great is `Your Second Child' by Joa Solomon Weiss. It covers helping you decide whether to have a 2nd child or not, how to prepare yourself and your 1st, how to handle 2, etc.
One suggestion I have to handle lack of attention to your first or jealousy. When I have to be attending to my baby (nursing, etc.) and my 1st gets whiny, demanding, etc. I `parallel talk' to my baby. Example: `Baby, your big sister can really do good somersaults', or `look at her putting her shoes on. Isn't that great. I bet you wish you could do this.....'. This seems to involve the elder and make her feel good, and gives them both attention at the same time."

"Some ideas that worked well for us with our almost 3 yr old when we were pregnant with our second are as follows:
Early involvement - as soon as you're comfortable, letting him know you're pregnant and share in your joy and wonderment.
Looking at/reading books about the birth process - one we enjoyed was `Being Born' by Sheila Kitzinger.
Looking at books about becoming a big brother - many good ones available at the library i.e. by Fred Rodgers.
Visiting the doctor with you and dad and listening to the heart beat. Touring the hospital with the special tour for big brothers and sisters. Lots of hugs and kisses for the new big brother when baby arrives. Along with the baby's 1st year calendar we kept a special book of memories for the big brother - we used `My New Baby & Me' by Dain G. Smith - Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Letting him help when ever possible i.e. getting clean diapers, finding a toy baby will like.
Letting him share in the wonderment and joy of baby's first smile, rolling over, etc.
Giving him the opportunity to develop his own special relationship with out mom or dad's interference.
Our third child came along when our second was only 16 months old so we had to adapt some of the activities to his age level but basically he was still involved from the start and has very little negative energy. He is very aware when the baby needs something and if I'm not paying attention lets me know. IF he wants some time from me he will point to the baby's cradle and unless I'm in the middle of feeding etc., I make the time for him.
We feel very fortunate to have three boys that appear to be developing a special bond."

"Concerning sibling rivalry, I have two suggestions that have been helpful for me. 1 - A few weeks before the baby was due I bought a small gift for my 3yr old, wrapped it up and packed it in my suitcase to go to the hospital. When he came to the hospital to see the baby for the first time, he was greeted with a present from the baby. 2 - Every time I nurse the baby, I invite my 3yr old to sit next to me and hold his feet.

"My sons are 2 1/2 years apart - one thing we did which was quite successful was to be conscious of the words we used to explain why the older child's wants couldn't be attended to immediately. Instead of saying: `We can't go outside now because I am feeding the baby' I would say `We can't go outside now because I am resting'. Instead of `I will get your ball from the closet when I'm done changing the baby's diaper' I would say `I am busy right now, but I will soon be finished'. This way my literal-minded 2 1/2 year old never connected his delayed gratification with his brother's arrival, but instead blamed it on his mother's increased need to `rest', or sudden compunction to `finish' small tasks. You don't realize how much you catered to your first-born's desires until you try to balance them against another child's needs for sleep, food and cleanliness. Co-operation was easy to gain because the act was done for the parent, not the new sibling, and like wise frustration was directed at the parent and not at new brother. I think we avoided problems this way."

"How did you prepare your child for a new arrival? When our first daughter was born, we had photographed the birth. We didn't realize it then, but this was the best educational tool we could use to prepare her for her new brother. She loved looking at her own birth and we talked through the processing of the pictures. Just preparing her and telling her what the new baby would be like helped tremendously.
What methods have you found helpful in fostering co-operation from your toddler? I don't expect too much from my toddler with a new baby in house, they do revert back in behavior. Lower your own expectations about the way they should act. Keep in good humor and try to realize what they are going through.
What are your thoughts on eliminating or reducing the psychological threat your child may see from having to share your attention?
When your new baby is taking a nap, do something one-to-one with the older child. I usually give a choice to the older child, for example do you want to read a book or color a picture. Also, I try to do this every day, even if it's only for 15-20 minutes with the older child. It's made a world of difference.
Try to be attentive to their needs. Listen to what they have to say and how they are feeling about the new baby. Have them draw a picture about how they feel. This really let's you know how much anger there is.
What techniques have been successful from you in redirecting negative energy in your older child? Reassure your older child, they are very special and I use; You were mommy and daddy's first baby. We love you but mommy just can't allow you to be mean to the new baby.
Additional suggestions: Join a support group or parent and family life group to talk through problems. Read SIBLING RIVALRY by Adele Raber? This book is excellent, gives good examples.'

"I have a 5 year old son and a six week old daughter. Although my son is not a toddler I feel the things I have used with him would be very helpful for a toddler also.
When pregnant with my daughter I went out and bought a `new baby' doll. This doll is realistic in comparison to a newborn. I also bought several outfits for the `baby'. I then wrapped all the clothes up in several different boxes and kinds of paper. Then when my daughter was born my mom brought our son's baby and gifts to the hospital. My son was thrilled to have his own baby and gifts to bring home from the hospital. Now at home he does for his baby the things I do for ours.
It has been an excellent help for re-directing behavior he wants to do on our baby but is just not big enough to do. We named our daughter Kalene and he named his baby Daniel. P.S. - Be sure to get a doll that can be bathed and washed."

( What advice would you most like to give about experiencing life with a new baby?"
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