Developing sibling love

by Brittany Gilbert

When we found out our second baby was a boy, we were so excited that our two boys would grow up to be best friends. They are two years apart, so we knew this friendship would take some time and even some help to create.

My brother and I are separated by 18 months. We are close, but it took several years of wrestling and him getting mad because I wanted to be involved in everything he did. This is a common struggle with helping little ones to adjust to a new baby.

In the beginning, we just wanted to help with the adjustment of bringing a baby home. Up until this point, every toy in the house was his, and all of our time was devoted to him. We knew we couldn’t just bring a new baby in to the house without helping our oldest along, so we decided to be proactive in helping him adjust. Whether you’re planning to add to your family, expecting a new baby or interested in ways to encourage a relationship between your children, here are some tips.

Encourage older siblings with early preparation.

Early on in the pregnancy with our second son, we bought our oldest a baby doll and told him it was his baby. We taught him how to be gentle with the baby, and he learned about the different needs of a baby. Even after we brought his baby brother home, he enjoyed feeding his baby doll as his brother was eating and having his own baby to care for.

Take your children on dates.

When Canaan was our only child, we didn’t think to spend time alone with him because he always had our attention. Declan came along and suddenly our attention was split. It was even more difficult for Canaan to get alone time with me because a newborn is usually much more dependent on the mom.

As soon as I was able, Canaan and I went out on a date. It was a simple date, but we sat at a restaurant together and bonded over smoothies and cookies. Now, he asks to go on dates, and we know he values this time just as much as we do.

These special moments can help your older children feel valued in the midst of their world changing tremendously. This helped foster the relationship between our two boys because Canaan was getting his own personal attention from me and my husband. He wasn’t having to fight for his place in the family. Going on dates with your children can and should continue throughout their life. It’s a great way to connect with your older children, too.

Encourage communication and promote family.

Several months ago, when Declan was first starting to play and become mobile, Canaan was having trouble sharing and being nice. Whenever Declan grabbed a toy, Canaan would take it away and push Declan down. Needless to say, this was not acceptable. One of the ways I chose to handle this situation was to let him know how it made me feel when he hurt his little brother. I found myself crying as I told my 2-year-old how sad it made me when he hurt my baby. It was important for him to understand that Declan is important to our family and we need to love each other.

These are simple tips to foster sibling love. Don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t work at first. You’ll need to be consistent to see a real change in your children. Children will have disagreements just based off an egocentric nature, but they can be encouraged toward a fun relationship between siblings.